The waste hierarchy is a tool that sets out the options for managing waste in terms of what’s best for the environment. A good understanding of the waste hierarchy helps butchers improve sustainability. And if you run a butchery business, you must by law, (like all businesses) take account of the waste hierarchy when you choose a waste management option.
Waste collectors vary in how they treat butchers' waste, so it’s well worth asking questions. The best way to be sure your waste is treated as high up the hierarchy as possible is likely to be to use a rendering firm committed to waste hierarchy principles.
Waste hierarchy levels
The five levels in the hierarchy are reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, dispose (landfill or incineration).
Could you reduce the amount of waste you produce? There’s growing interest from customers in reducing food waste. There's also increasing recognition that animal parts we rarely eat can in fact be delicious. Jamie Oliver’s website, for example, has a tasty-sounding beef cheeks in red wine recipe. So it could be there’s a market for some of the material you currently discard. A special promotion and maybe some recipe ideas for customers could both reduce your waste and increase profits.
Once, butcher’s waste was used directly for fertiliser or fed to animals. Today, health risks mean reuse without processing is usually no longer an option for butchers’ waste.
At the recycling level, your choice of waste collector will make a huge difference. Choose a good rendering firm, and your waste will be recycled into new products. These can include feed ingredients and ingredients for chemical industry products such as toiletries.
Ideally, all material that has the potential to be recycled should be. That’s not always possible, for both logistical and commercial reasons. But a good rendering firm will aim to recycle as their preferred option.
If your business is a licenced cutting plant producing Category 1 animal by-products, note that these can’t be recycled because of the risk of disease.
Where recycling isn’t an option, it’s still possible to recover the energy from the waste by turning the material into fuel – as we do here at JG Pears. We make and sell high-grade biofuel oils. We also produce meat and bonemeal fuel for the combined heat and power station that powers our plant. Letting no resource go to waste, we then use the ash to make a nutrient-rich fertilizer (TIgerfert).
Given the recycling and recovery options now available, it’s unnecessary and wasteful to send butchers’ waste for landfill or incineration. With the meat industry’s carbon footprint a topic of hot debate, the more we can all do to reduce waste, the stronger and more sustainable the industry will be.