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Food for thought

Charlie-KortensWhen food is manufactured, there is inevitably some left over. Crisps that are the wrong shape, cereals that have broken, biscuits that are too heavy. For whatever reason this perfectly good food is deemed not worthy of human consumption. Have you ever wondered what happens to it? It isn’t just thrown out if that’s what you were thinking, instead a huge amount is repurposed as animal feed by firms such as SugaRich

Despite the modern fascination with eliminating waste and creating a wonderfully fair society, over a third of all the food produced globally still goes to waste. However, on a quiet, unassuming site near Northampton, SugaRich are doing more than their bit to right this wrong.

They insist that this cast off, reject food is not a waste, but a resource. Not only does it provide a definite service, it can also be utilised to create environmental benefits and create a circular economy.

Paul Featherstone is procurement director at the SugaRich site FMJ visits, one of 13 such sites nationwide. He is a man who is clearly passionate about what his company does, as well as a man with lots of interesting things to say to facilities managers and the FM industry in general. Featherstone studied agriculture at college and is chairman of the European Former Food Stuff Processors Association.

The idea behind SugaRich is very simple, any produce that doesn’t meet the food industry’s rigorous requirements (this can mean anything from the wrong shape to the wrong weight or torn packaging…) can be fed to animals instead. It is a circular economy and the entire site is zero to landfill.

Many of these former foodstuffs, including bread, biscuits, breakfast cereal, crisps and confectionery have a very high nutritional value – being a source of high quality fats, sugar and carbohydrates. After checking their feed safety and traceability and therefore suitability, SugaRich convert these into high quality ingredients for use in animal feed, avoiding waste from food that is not up to scratch.

This ‘closed-loop’ recycling, by which the waste from one product is used in the making of another, brings measurable economic gains to businesses and long term benefits to the environment.

The company has manufacturing sites across the United Kingdom and manages to deliver over 380,000 tonnes of animal feed every single year to 254 food factories. This works out as 7,500 tonnes a week, or 1,300 tonnes a day.

Of course there are very specific legal requirements that SugaRich has to adhere to. Anything designated for feed use will ultimately be re-entering the food chain, the rules have to be very strict.

By law the factory is deemed a “Feed Business Operator” and has to be compliant under the Feed Hygiene Regulations EU 183/2005.

Hygiene standards are very important in the disposal of the surplus foodstuffs. Products no longer intended for human consumption, which may be destined for farm animal feeding, must be kept separate during transport, storage and dispatch to and from a supermarket returns depot or food manufacturing plant.

The site FMJ visited is, broadly speaking, divided into two distinct spheres. Wet and Dry. Any waste food that is considered ‘wet’ has to be dried out before it can be converted into animal feed. To make this happen the food is fed through the largest drier in the country. The reason is food with a high moisture content is far more perishable. Think the food you keep in your fridge versus the food you keep in a cupboard.

Dry food is ready immediately. Great mountains of waste (or resource if you prefer) is piled up Himalaya-like in SugaRich’s barns, it is then sieved and sorted as part of an ingenious system until new mountains of animal feed are ready to serve. Any packaging that has become mixed in with the food is also separated during this process.

About Sarah OBeirne


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