Like many businesses, those in the baking trade often feel that they have little spare time on their hands to dedicate to environmental issues. However, this is an area where a little investment can pay dividends in terms of improved resource efficiency and cost savings.

By putting in place simple measures to improve environmental performance - such as using raw materials, water and energy more effectively - bakers large and small can usually make valuable savings in a matter of months.

The UK bread and morning goods market is worth over £3 billion and is one of the largest sectors in the food industry. With total volume of 4.4 billion units, the equivalent of nearly 12 million loaves and packs every single day, according to the Federation of Bakers, reducing costs and overheads can be crucial to staying ahead in this highly competitive marketplace. So, what practical steps can bakers take to run a more efficient and streamlined operation?

Firstly, it is of vital importance to understand the types and quantities of waste being generated and the associated costs. This will help you identify the largest areas of waste production and greatest opportunities to improve performance. This can be done by simply walking around your business and conducting a waste audit, looking at what is being done, how it is being done and recording information about the types of waste generated.

It is also useful to check utility invoices and the volume of waste produced and, where possible, compare against the industry average for similar-sized establishments. Once these initial steps have been implemented, businesses should consider using a formal structure, such as the waste hierarchy, which provides a framework within which the most desirable waste management options are set out.

== Green guidelines ==

Bakery businesses looking to take steps towards good environmental management should consider the following guidelines, which are ranked in order of environmental impact and cost savings:

l Eliminate - avoid generating potential waste. Work with suppliers to find ways of reducing the amount of packaging used, or look at the possibility of employing reusable packaging such as plastic crates.

l Reduce - think about the packaging you use. Is it the correct size/shape for the product or is volume being wasted?

l Reuse - there may be opportunities to reuse items normally thrown away after their initial use, such as empty boxes.

l Recycle - once the amount of packaging has been reduced and reused as much as possible, consider recycling waste materials, which can save money through paying less for rubbish collections. Local authorities or waste contractors can offer advice about facilities in your area.

l Dispose - it may be possible to reduce the cost of disposal, for example, by squashing boxes as flat as possible.

== Employee involvement ==

Like all successful business practices, the key to putting in place an effective resource efficiency programme such as this is good teamwork. Only by ensuring that employees are involved can waste minimisation be integrated into the organisational culture.

A good starting point is to appoint a champion to co-ordinate and facilitate the resource efficiency programme. Staff should also be told the value of the materials they are handling and the cost of frequently taken-for-granted resources such as water and energy. Talking about potential savings in pounds is more meaningful than quoting percentages and helps bring home the impact of waste on profits.

Once an initial action plan has been agreed, consider ongoing activities to keep staff motivated, such as regular team updates and inclusion of waste management issues in training programmes.

Incentive schemes - whether a financial payment, small prize or personal recognition - can also be extremely effective in maintaining momentum. Bakery businesses could reward individuals for meeting waste reduction targets or coming up with good suggestions to improve resource efficiency.


=== Baking Industry Summit: cutting waste ===

Top industry figures will discuss hot environmental topics, including reducing waste, at British Baker’s Baking Industry Summit on Corporate Social Responsibility. Key speakers at the London event on 27 November include Harriet Lamb, director of the Fairtrade Foundation, and Asda’s bakery director Huw Edwards. See [] for further details. To book, contact Helen Law at or phone 01293 846587.


=== Simplicity is the key ===

When it comes to improving resource efficiency and minimising waste, many practical measures can be put into place with just a little investment. Simple ideas include:

l Turn off the lights - even for short periods of time

l Replace inefficient lighting with energy-efficient lamps or fluorescent tubes. These not only cut electricity consumption by more than 50%, but can also be cheaper to buy and last 10 times longer than conventional products

l Fit timers to temperature controls and electrical equipment to reduce energy use during unnecessary periods

l Reduce the temperature setting on heating. One degree less will save up to 8% on an individual store’s energy bill

l Set up separate bins for different types of waste to make recycling easier

l Check water meters regularly to help identify whether there are leaks. If the meter is running when the shop is closed, there is probably a leak

l Fit water displacement devices, such as hippo bags, in toilet cisterns. These reduce the amount of water used by up to three litres per flush. Envirowise has recently launched a new free initiative aimed at helping businesses understand and cut down on the amount of water they use - with the potential to save around 30% of the cost of rising water bills. The Rippleffect is a six-month initiative suitable for businesses of any size. See [] for details - registration closes on 10 September 2008

l Choose minimally-packaged products or ask your suppliers to supply products in less packaging. Ask your suppliers to take excess packaging away with them when they deliver

l Gain the support of staff so they can help to reduce waste.

For further information about how to improve resource efficiency, call the Envirowise Advice Line on 0800 585 794 or visit []. The website also has a range of useful, free good practice guides, which can help businesses cut down on waste, improve resource efficiency and reduce water consumption.