Albert Bartlett makes huge savings with waste cut system
Potato packing company Albert Bartlett has saved £200,000 a year by assessing its waste through a unique bar-coded bin system.
The system, which cost £7,000 to install, has also helped the company cut its overall waste from 0.99kg per tonne of packed potatoes to 0.71kg.
There is a bar-coded bin for every two production lines, which is scanned and weighed at the end of each shift, with the figures monitored and published internally.
"The system puts a value on waste," explained Russell White, site services manager. "We'd never really looked at what we were wasting and what it was costing."
By closely assessing the wastage in its Airdrie packing plant, problems with staff, equipment or packaging (ripped bags, for instance, or misprints on labels) stand out and are quickly rectified. Results are published and staff compete to ensure they are not bottom of a waste league table.
Training for staff is continuous to ensure that everyone is on board with the company's target to send 0% waste to landfill by 2020.
Another advantage from using the bin scanners is engagement with customers. "The supermarkets are always pushing for us to drive down the thickness of the film on bags," Mr White said.
"But the scan system can be used in negotiations: they can see that 35mg bags can result in a lot more waste than the 55mg ones."
Zero Waste Scotland is said to be keen on using the system as a best practice case study as Scotland prepares for a new set of waste regulations.
Albert Bartlett is best known for its Rooster potatoes brand and high profile marketing campaigns using Desperate Housewives actress Marcia Cross. But it has been more guarded in relation to its green credentials to date.
However, it offered edie access to details of its environmental progress, and its future ambitions. This includes a target to send 0% waste to landfill by 2020, which the company "doesn't yet know" how to achieve.
Currently, 120 tonnes goes to landfill - down from 229 tonnes in 2009. Development and innovation director Gillian Kynoch admitted that engineering waste will be "particularly difficult". The target will "challenge us to find new outlets for some waste", she added.
This won't include a new outlet for food waste though. The company has been approached by many waste contractors looking to take away the rejects to feed anaerobic digestion (AD) plants - spuds are a perfect feedstock. Instead, they are sold as cattlefeed.
"Financially, AD doesn't work for us," said operations director, Colin Campbell. "They want to charge me to take it away [...] they said it wasn't in their business plan to pay for [food waste]. I am getting £17 on average [per tonne for selling the rejects as cattle feed] and it's not in my business plan to give it away."