Smart Waste - How to get the chicken off the shelf and back into the soil

How to get the chicken off the shelf and back into the soil

When asked where do the chicken pieces come from most people will point to a supermarket shelf. Very few consider the steps beforehand, hatching the chick, growing and slaughtering it. Then getting it weighed, cut into pieces, packed and put on the shelf.

Even fewer people think about what happens when the chicken passes its sell by date and is no longer fit for human or animal consumption. How does one reverse the process and where does the former chicken end up?

Today we would like to share our experiences of how to get the chicken off the shelf and back into the soil from whence it came.

First of all let’s agree what we are talking about. We are not talking about the food waste which all the responsible retailers give to staff, donate to charities and food banks and otherwise dispose of.

This is not about food donations, it’s about getting food that is beyond consumption back into the food cycle

What we are talking about, is what a lot of food retailers and other hospitality and other industries produce in the making of their products. It is the offcuts of meat and fish, left over dough from the bakery, vegetable peelings and rotting fruit, coffee grinds, and spoiled or damaged items including dry goods.

It is the yuck stuff which the waste generator has to get rid of or else it will stink the place up and be a health hazard. We are using the chicken as a proxy for all of these items.

As a general comment the waste producer does not want to spend money on this process. He would prefer it to be done surreptitiously, the “blink voor stink agter” mindset. Nor does it want the public to see this for obvious reasons, it is a dirty toilet which someone else must clean.

Nobody wants to see this kind of waste, we simply deal with it appropriately

This is yuck to the waste producer but it is a resource to many others. And in terms of circular economy thinking we need to reuse this material. It can be done but there are a number of steps to follow and a mis-step can result in more cost and/ or embarrassment.

In the age of social media the reputational and possible criminal or civil damage which can result from a mis-step is high. Hence many generators are loath to engage and simply throw their food waste away, often mixed in with the general waste. Some retailers even have a policy about this.

The process is not rocket science but a number of small steps. So what are the typical steps for getting the chicken off the shelf:

  • Taking it off stock and through security clearance.
  • Firstly the food waste must be weighed and a record kept for the monthly report.
  • The waste must be sorted and depackaged. The plastic wrapped around the frozen chicken must be removed. Composters are paranoid about introducing plastic into their composting process. Rightly so.
  • Food waste must then be stored; smells and rats are easy thing to deal with. What is more difficult is security to prevent vagrants from taking the food waste
  • The collection and transport of food waste is critical; the costs of doing so can put an end to the service. This despite the fact that it is cheaper to compost than to landfill food waste.

There are a number of end solutions for the food waste. We have a choice of waste to energy, waste to food as in animal feed and composting. Each solution has a number of alternatives. Composting includes in-vessel composting and open windrows.

In our experience African solutions are best for our problems. Low tech composting is preferable over high tech solutions from overseas.

It is cheaper to compost than to landfill food waste

So…the chicken finally ends up in one of these solution and is returned to the earth as compost.

Throughout this process there has to be a chain of custody. The legal and reputational damage for a retailer if its food stuff found its way back into the market would be enormous. This is where there can be no mis-steps.

To guarantee this Smart Waste issues a certificate of composting which is independent proof for auditing purposes. Apart from the desire to dispose of food waste responsibly there is also the small question of the ban on organic waste from landfill. In terms of legislation already in place 50% of organic waste must be removed from landfill by 20022. And the balance by 2027.

Smart Waste is a leader in providing a food waste service. It has been pioneering a system of transport and containers with leading retailers for several years.

We now have a dedicated vehicle which is cheaper to operate and more suitable than the large and messy trucks.

The service is cheaper than landfill, clean and secure. Most importantly we are following the principles of the circular economy (link to Feb 2019) and shortening the loop. We are putting the chicken back in the soil where it came from.

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Picture: Pixabay