EAST Cork food and retail businesses are making huge cost savings and having positive impacts on the environment and staff morale thanks to Savour Food, a new food waste reduction programme.
Supported by the Clean Technology Centre (CIT), SECAD, and Taste Cork, the 11 participating businesses were given Savour Food awards recently. For the past year, they have been given free consultancy, food waste prevention training and advice on legal obligations in relation to food waste management.
Savour Food is currently inviting food businesses from the Clonakilty and Ballyhoura regions to join year two of the programme. The initial trial was a success. The companies in the pilot were glad to save €3 per kg, or €3,000 per tonne, on reduced waste costs. As business owners will know, €3,000 of bottom line costs equates to three or four times that in revenue.
Programme participant Aherne’s Townhouse and Seafood Restaurant in Youghal has reduced their waste collection costs by €160/ month or €2,000 per annum at ‘zero cost’ to the business. This saving equates to the business increasing its turnover by €10,000 per annum.
“It was easy enough really, just a case of them advising me on better recycling,” said David Fitzgibbon, proprietor of Aherne’s Restaurant. “It has reduced the waste we were sending to landfill and it has saved me money.
“All the staff were happy about it and were very quickly on board. They were all segregating waste at home in any case, so they’re just doing the same kind of thing now in work also. It’s good for the environment and good for business. Naturally, everybody is happy to work with this programme.”
Other East Cork members of Savour Food include Ballyseedy Home & Garden, three Bite Size cafés (including one in Ballincollig), Day’s Eurospar, Ferrit & Lee, Fitzgerald’s Bakery, Fota Island Resort, Hurley’s SuperValu Midleton, La Trattoria, The Malt House Restaurant @ The Jameson Experience Midleton Distillery, The Pepperstack and The Red Store.
Better planning, food waste segregation, waste auditing and waste cost analysis are key elements of the Savour Food programme, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and provided free of charge to food businesses.
Savour Food programme lead, James Hogan of the Clean Technology Centre, said: “In Ireland we generate over one million tonnes of waste food each year, 75% of which is generated in food production, service and retail. Wasted food is wasted money, as well as having implications for the environment and climate change”.
The Savour Food programme advises businesses on how to monitor and prevent food waste, which results in reduced food waste and cost savings. Phase two of the programme will begin within a matter of weeks.
“When we started in East Cork, some businesses would already have had a brown bin, but we were surprised by the number of companies who didn’t,” said James Hogan. “Now there is a greater awareness of the impacts of waste.
“It all starts with measuring waste. Measuring the waste helps us advise companies on their opportunities to save. Hotels are where most food waste occurs. Factory canteens create far less waste.
“Typically, hotels create around 400g of waste per cover. The average hotel creates around 50 tonnes of waste each year, which equates to a cost of around €150,000.”
CIT’s Clean Technology Centre has been engaging with businesses for the past 25 years, across all sectors. The Savour Food initiative is specifically focused on food service providers.
The programme’s partners applaud companies like Tesco, who sell ‘ugly’ fruit and veg at a discount rather than dumping it. While the Savour Food pilot trials have very focused goals within specific communities, they may also feed into the bigger picture national efforts to promote the sustainability of Irish agri-food and tourism.
“Around a third of all food produced globally is wasted,” said James Hogan. It would feed around 600 million people, or almost twice the population of the USA. That waste also releases huge volumes of greenhouse gases. If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest polluter in the world after the USA and China.
“We’d like to develop the programme in other communities and in other counties,” he added. “We see it as part of the bigger ‘green agenda’ along with Bord Bia’s Origin Green and other initiatives to reduce or redistribute food waste. The savings are good both in economic terms and for the environment.” Following the success of the East Cork pilot, Savour Food’s partners are very upbeat about the up-coming programmes in Clonakilty and Ballyhoura.
Programme partner, SECAD CEO Ryan Howard, said: “The Savour Food programme is a win-win for the food sector. Not only is it an ideal way for businesses to save money on food waste, meet best practice guidelines for the food sector, it also ensures that we are respecting our environment for a more sustainable future”.
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David Healy has been named as health, safety, environment and quality manager with telecoms engineering solutions services provider 4site. He has held similar roles at Obelisk, the international professional engineering services business; and with the British Army’s Royal Corps of Signals, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds a HDip in Safety, Health and Welfare at Work from UCC. He is a member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Based in Limerick, with offices in Dublin and the UK, 4site’s clients include Vodafone, SIRO, Cignal, CityFibre Huawei, 2RN (RTÉ), Three, Ericsson, Nokia, CommScope and enet.