We’re a wasteful lot, when it comes to food.
There are bits of animals we won’t let past our lips – though once we did – bits which we simply can’t eat and bits it would be dangerous to eat.
Then there is the food that retailers throw away because it’s close to or past its sell by date, the line has been discontinued or, maybe, the packaging has been damaged.
Add to that the off-cuts and leftovers from restaurants and cafes and the disasters – including production lines where an ingredient runs out and it is only noticed after the product has been hermetically sealed in a brand name plastic pack.
Some of it is our own fault, some is simply just the way it is – but the really bad news is that so much of it has ended up taking up expensive space in landfill sites.
However, there is one South Yorkshire company that won’t be content until it has found a use for everything – down to and including the piggy’s squeak.
Prosper De Mulder is the UK’s biggest processor and recycler of what sometimes is, but in many cases really isn’t, waste food from ‘farm gate to dinner plate.’
And, since its tie up last year with German group Saria Bio-Industries, the firm is now part of the largest company in the field in Europe.
Two things immediately strike a new visitor to Prosper De Mulder’s Doncaster headquarters and the base for a number of its processing businesses.
There’s no smell – and certainly not the powerful, unpleasant smell you might be expecting. What’s more, the levels of hygiene throughout the plant are those you would expect from somewhere producing food for human consumption.
Of course, some of the products – dripping, lard, oils and other ingredients derived from meat – are very much for human consumption, either directly in the kitchen at home or via a food manufacturer’s plant, a restaurant or a fish and chip shop. Others are supplied to pet food manufacturers and Fido can sleep in his basket secure in the knowledge that Prosper De Mulder has lavished the same care on him as on products made for his master.
But, what about the real waste – the bits that are only suitable for using as fuel in the company’s combined heat and power plant or its shiny, new anaerobic digester?
“Just because it is waste, it doesn’t have to be bad and you don’t have to have issues with vermin or seagulls,” says commercial director Philip Simpson, whose responsibilities include the firm’s new ReFood bio-energy business.
“We have adopted the same culture as with the food side of the business. This site is a food site and so we look at all developments from the point of view of cleanliness, hygiene and biosecurity.”
Prosper De Mulder’s chief executive, Andy Smith, says there has been massive change in the food waste recycling sector.
“When I stop and consider event the last 15 years, I see an industry which is almost unrecognisable – moving away from its traditional offering of rendering to suddenly developing cutting-edge techniques which not only give different options for the disposal of food waste, but techniques which also use waste to generate renewable energy,” says Mr Smith.
The company is keen to see that continue and, as part of that drive, is spearheading a campaign to ban food waste from landfill, in much the same was as batteries and waste electrical equipment is now banned.