Environment: How green is my business?

14 May, 2010

Going green does not have to  be a hindrance. By diversifying and examining your whole operation, you can even save money and open up new revenue channels. Adam Baker finds out the top green tips in producing, processing and retailing





1. Brush up on the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme or it will cost you



With the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC EES) now approaching, current studies indicate that as much as 10% of the CRC's audience are not going to comply with registration, says Gary Worby, MD of Energyquote, incorporating John Hall Associates. He warns that the Environmental Agency will impose a fine on companies included in the scheme that do not have a CRC account by the deadline. The CRC is aimed at companies that use more than 6,000 MWh per year of electricity. "The fine increases if registration still hasn't happened by the date of the first sale of allowances in April 2011. At this point, the company will be considered to be non-compliant. Then, the second stage of penalties kicks in and a moderate fine per tonne of carbon will be imposed if the emissions are reported by August 2011.



"It can get worse, as missing the August 2011 deadline will mean the loss of a firm's entire revenue recycling payment for non-compliance. If two or three months lapse after that, the offending organisation pays £25/CO2 tonne and is forced to buy allowances on the secondary market to cover emissions."


l See www.decc.gov.uk for more details



2. Switch to green fuels from renewable sources



The Foodchain and Biomass Renewables Association (FABRA) says indications are that restrictions on the use of tallow as a fuel may be lifted, as Defra and the Environment Agency review their interpretation of new EU regulations.


After months of campaigning by FABRA and its members alongside its UK meat and agricultural industry partners, hopes are that there will soon be a lifting of the restrictions caused by having to comply with the Waste Incineration Directive (WID).


If a change in policy comes about, a switch back to using tallow as a fuel in steam-raising boilers could present producers and meat processors with substantial improvements in fossil fuel bills, renewables credits and environmental impact.



3. Grow in-house fruit and vegetables



One environmentally-friendly project on the cards at the moment in Denmark is the building of a farm that combines pig production alongside fruit and vegetable growing. Supported by Danish foundation Realdania, which initiates and develops environmental improvement projects, this new super-farm could be a model for future pig production and improve livestock's standing against accusations that it is major world polluter.


Combining a pig farm and a greenhouse to create a two-storey building, the pigs are reared on the ground floor of the farm, while above them, on the first floor, fruit such as tomatoes are grown, using the heat and air from the pigs below. As such, the greenhouse is also used to filter and absorb, via soil and plant roots, ammonia and odour vapours from the pig production, leading to minimal environmental impact or exhaust fumes.


Then, together with waste from the integrated meat production, the slurry from pig production will be used to generate biogas and hence electricity and heat for the greenhouse. Excess heat and carbon dioxide from the pig production, such as body heat and CO2 expiration from the thousands of pigs kept indoors, will then be used to heat and treat the green produce.


The end-products of the manure can then be processed into a separation system, which yields water, used for crop watering, and dry matter or fertiliser, which can be used locally or exported. The overall aim is to reduce the CO2 impact on the environment through modern commercial agricultural production.






4. Monitor and measure your energy consumption to highlight challenges



Cornish meat processor Jaspers, winner of the Meat & Poultry Processing Awards Environmental Initiative of the Year, has researched and invested in a whole range of different measures to keep down its environmental impact. Jaspers has bought heavily into water technology for both of its sites in Treburley and South Petherwin, says Jaspers environmental manager Holly Jasper. "Over £800,000 has been spent on our effluent treatment plants (ETP). The ETP is designed to clean, filter and rid the water of any bacteria, viruses or pathogens. The effluent undergoes ultra-filtration, which has an effective pore size of 0.1mm, so the only particles able to pass into the effluent are metal ions and aqueous salts, as pathogens and viruses are too large to pass through the filters."


The effluent produced can be reused on-site for washing down external areas, such as the lairage, for hauliers and farmers to wash their vehicles and, if future plans are realised, it will be incorporated into the toilet cisterns across the site.


Jaspers also says it was the first UK abattoir to receive the British standard for Environmental Management Systems and went on further to receive the international standard for Environmental Management Systems.


Jaspers also has an Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) permit, which addresses all its interactions with the environment across the site. The permit ensures preventative measures are used and best available technologies and techniques are in place to reduce the risk of pollution to the local and global environment.


Meanwhile, Samworth Brothers adds that it began its journey towards developing its environmental credentials back in 2005. "It was actually new government legislation that got us started in having to apply for our IPPC licence, due to the size of our manufacturing facilities," says Ray Hanly, Ginsters (Samworth Brothers) production director. "Ginsters was granted its IPPC licence in 2005 and this was shortly followed by the introduction of ISO14001 six-monthly audits. During this transition, we quickly understood that this new legislation and its auditing body provided an excellent template that could be adopted in developing good manufacturing practices, control of emissions, identification and reduction of waste streams, while focusing on getting quality right first time. This put us in a strong position to not only meet legislation, but also remove non-value-added costs from the business.


"Certainly this required a behavioural change in how we educated our workforce to adopt this new way of working," he continues. "Basic environmental awareness was introduced as part of our core training to help simplify legislation and help our teams understand how they could reduce the impact that our business is having on the environment. A utilities reduction team was also introduced, whose objective was to develop our energy reduction strategy and introduce best-practice to the business. It goes without saying that what is measured is controlled and this very often does not require high investment with the exception of additional metering where necessary.


"Targeted investment, ensuring we are investing into best available technology, has become a way of working and, this year, we are in the process of scoping a waste-to-energy project, which will further reduce our carbon footprint by 23%. Each year we adopt a new level of thinking to ensure we drive change through removing activities that do not add value to our end-customer.


"Without question, this new way of working has made us more efficient as a supplier and gives us a competitive edge."



5. Dispose of your abattoir waste properly



Last year, South African business Convertech Biological Conversion Technology announced it was going to take its abattoir tissue disposal system to a global level.


Its waste disposal technology has been developed purposely for the disposal of condemned abattoir waste and specific risk materials. Using this system, all animal tissue, fat or even blood can broken down into its basic building blocks, such as amino acids, small peptides, sugars and nutrients, along with the mineral ash of the bones and teeth.


The technology uses elevated temperatures, which are less than 100°C, and a small amount of chemical that effects the release of a diatomic anion under very specific conditions, thereby encouraging the insertion of ions between the atoms of the bonds that hold complex protein together. The decomposition process takes between six and 24 hours and results in a sterile and stable liquid that can be beneficially used in compost, liquid fertiliser, feedstock for biogas generators, an additive to the biodiesel process or can be safely land filled as a biosolid.


The technology process produces no malodorous or harmful emissions such as dioxins or furans. A small quantity of ammonia is released during the process, but is limited to levels below those typically found in abattoir holding pens.



6. Sort animal by-products to maximise their carbon value



FABRA says research currently under way looks set to provide data to support carbon credits, based on the eventual use of animal by-products. With carbon credit values potentially based on material category, it adds, lowering your carbon footprint could be as easy as properly sorting your Category 3 and Category 2 by-products.


"That's because Category 3 by-products can be used in feeds and pharmaceuticals, replacing virgin raw materials with higher carbon price-tags. And as the European Commission actively reviews restrictions on the use of selected processed animal proteins (PAPs) in feed, the future carbon value of Cat 3 and Cat 2 by-products could be set to increase," says FABRA chief executive Steve Woodgate.


"The carbon value of Cat 1 material is good news too. With FABRA members deriving and using green fuel in the form of tallow and producing green energy from animal proteins, it's likely that Cat 1 animal by-products could also carry a healthy carbon-credit back through the meat production chain."



7. Maximise food-grade output to spread the carbon cost



According to FABRA, maximising the volume of food-grade output spreads the carbon-cost of producing and processing meat. Processors can reduce the volume of material handled as by-product, by finding markets for food-grade material for which there is low demand on domestic markets. FABRA says its members are working with their customers to maximise the range of edible products derived from the traditional fifth-quarter to improve carbon values and commercial returns.


Producers should talk to their FABRA by-product processor, adds the association, about ways to ensure by-product achieves the highest category rating possible. Handling, washing and transportation can boost the carbon value of by-products and, in the future, could potentially return carbon-credit back to the company.






8. Generate your own energy and invest in new refrigeration



A recent investment by Sainsbury's is to extend one of its existing stores 'carbon-negatively'. The extension at Sainsbury's Durham store has added 50% more space to the building, but energy required to run the new larger store, will fall by 10%.


The reduction has been brought about by a number of technologies, including on-site renewable power generation and new, ground-breaking refrigeration technology. As the energy efficiency of the building is so much higher, and renewable energy is generated on-site, the carbon generated in building the extension will be neutralised after just two years, Sainsbury's claims.


The Durham store is also the first extension to use CO2 refrigeration. Sainsbury's announced last November that it was beginning a planned phase-out of F-gas refrigeration in favour of the more environmentally responsible CO2. The move, which was hailed by Greenpeace as an industry-leading step forward, will reduce the company's carbon footprint by around a third.


The remodelled store will harvest rainwater, which will help to bring about a 50% reduction in mains water usage. The extension will be constructed out of wooden panels, rather than steel or glass, to reduce the carbon impact even further.



9. Offer your customers renewable energy packages



Similiar to Sainbury's, in March, Tesco unveiled a new service, offering its customers installation of solar electricity and hot water systems. This is said to enable them the opportunity to generate their own electricity and slash home energy bills at the same time.


In conjunction with the government's Feed-In Tariffs, where people who install generating technologies are entitled to claim payments for the low carbon electricity they produce, Tesco now offers a range of packages that will save customers money and reduce the use of non-renewable energy sources. Tesco Renewable Energy can install solar hot water systems at prices starting from £3,499 and solar electricity systems from £6,999. The average system will pay for itself and start to generate profit claims Tesco. Taking into account energy price rises and inflation, savings made could amount to over £20,000 over 25 years. The service will also help customers complete forms to get government grants and tariffs.



10. Set up a food waste programme



This year Morrisons launched its 'Great Taste Less Waste' programme, aimed at significantly reducing the amount of food waste the UK throws away each year. The programme comprises three core areas, which include looking at the the 'smart' use of packaging to benefit the life of produce and keep it in good condition. Research commissioned by Morrisons found that 44% of shoppers believed prolonging the life of fresh produce would help them waste less.


A second core aim of the the programme is the development of 'Best Kept', so that produce is properly stored in the home to ensure longest life. Morrisons' research found that 49% of shoppers would welcome guidance on how to store fresh food properly. Thirdly, consumer education through effective meal planning will play an important part of the food waste programme, with research revealing that 57% of people regularly over-estimate the quantity of food that will be eaten during a meal and 21% stating that recipe advice would help cut down the amount of food they waste. Tom Beeston, a consultant at Eat England, who specialises in corporate responsibility, also reckons consumers should also be encouraged to eat communally. So flatmates should cook and eat together, wherever possible, and for Sunday roasts, families and neighbours should eat together.

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