SUNDAY TIMES - Cash in on cutting waste
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Sunday Times Business By Reuters, 2017-03-12 00:00:00.0

Cash in on cutting waste

A dustbin is placed in front of a poster bearing a picture of the Central Business District (CBD) area, outside a construction site in Beijing, China, October 26, 2015.
Image: JASON LEE REUTERS

For every dollar spent on reducing food waste, companies save on average $14 (about R186), according to a study published this week that also showed consumers can save money by reducing their waste.

The study analysed 700 restaurants, food manufacturers, retailers and hospitality companies in 17 countries and found that 99% made money from investing in curbing waste.

"There are still too many inside business and government unaware or unsure about the kind of impact they can have by reducing food loss and waste," said Dave Lewis, CEO of Britain's biggest retailer, Tesco.

Throwing out food wastes the water, energy and fuel needed to grow, store and transport it, campaigners say, while discarded food ends up in landfills where it rots, releasing harmful greenhouse gases.

Companies in the study reduced food waste through measures such as improving refrigeration and switching to more efficient packaging to extend products' shelf life.

In return, they gained extra income from selling products made with food saved from the bin, benefited from lower waste management costs and saved money not buying food that would have otherwise been lost.

The study showed how a food manufacturer achieved a more than 300-fold return on investment by running an audit that revealed 7% of the food it bought remained in bulk containers after they were emptied.

"The clear business case should swing people to act," said Lewis, who also chairs Champions 12.3, the campaign group that commissioned the first-of-its-kind study.

With the average US family of four spending about $1500 a year on food that is thrown away, cutting waste is also a boon for consumers' pockets.

Between 2007 and 2012, Britain cut household food waste by 21% due to an awareness campaign that pushed resealable food bags, the study said.

The campaign resulted in savings for consumers and local authorities, which benefited from lower waste disposal costs, the research said.

About a third of food produced in the world is never eaten because it is spoilt after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.