The food industry the first to commit to efficient use of materials

By Rinki and Motiva

Kuva Motiva

The food industry is the first sector in Finland to have made a material efficiency pledge for the period 2019-2021. The Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation (ETL), the Finnish Grocery Trade Association (PTY) and the Finnish Packaging Association have signed a material efficiency pledge for the food sector together with the Ministries for Agriculture and Forestry, Economic Affairs and Employment, and the Environment. The aim is to expand the pledge to other sectors in Finland.

The grocery trade is committed to reducing food wastage by at least 13% from the 2016 level by 2021. The food industry will set its own targets by the end of 2019.

Material efficiency boosts innovation and brings savings

The pledge sets a framework for the food industry’s shared goals though in practice, every company that makes the pledge selects the suitable measures to achieve the goals. The pledge encourages companies to find innovative solutions when developing their operations.

“Compared to legislation, this is a more effective way of reducing food waste. Businesses have a whole range of different ways to develop their operations. The pledge also encourages innovative cooperation between food companies. Waste is a big cost issue in the food industry, so we also have the financial incentive to do our best to reduce waste,” says Ilkka Nieminen, Director of the Finnish Grocery Trade Association.

The most efficient way to prevent waste in the grocery trade is to forecast sales as accurately as possible and order according to demand. The target for the industry for the first year is for the companies involved to represent 85% of the PTY member companies’ grocery sales, which has already been exceeded. Measured in terms of sales volume, more than 90% of grocery businesses have already made the pledge, so the pledge will reduce the overall amount of food waste in the grocery sector.

In industry, material efficiency audits can systematically identify the factors that cause waste. In small and medium-sized food companies, the typical savings potential found in audits is EUR 600,000 per year on average. Food waste and other waste can be reduced by developing products and production processes, for example. Usable sections can be used as raw materials for bioenergy and feedstuffs. Leftovers are also being developed into new products.

Packages play a key role in food waste prevention

Packaging plays a key role in preventing food waste throughout the food chain, including in households. The number of one- or two-person households is constantly increasing in Finland. If packages are too big, there will be waste as a result. Many food companies have responded to this need by offering their products in various sizes. Packaging material solutions can improve product shelf life and also facilitate recycling and reduce logistics costs.

“Proper packaging protects the product and prevents waste. This will help to reduce the environmental impact of food. Consumers also have the opportunity to influence the environmental impact of food packaging by ensuring that it is properly recycled,” says Anna Vainikainen, Chief Policy Adviser from the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation.

More information (in Finnish):
Companies that have made the pledge (in Finnish):