Using the food hierarchy to minimise waste

July 29, 2019

Highlighted Quotes

Cleanaway’s National Sustainability Solution Specialist, Manny Manatakis, recently presented at the Waste Expo in Las Vegas. In his presentation, Manny talked about how working at the top levels of the food recovery hierarchy helped our customer deliver on the triple bottom line of sustainability – economic, social and environmental benefits.

By Manny Manatakis


Five years ago, I was intrigued by an idea presented at Waste Expo. An organisation was using its existing fleet of general waste trucks to collect food organics in heavy duty bags to be sent for recovery at its waste facility.

This idea inspired me but not without a few tweaks. We loved the idea of using an existing collection service for its economies and scalability, but still recovering the resource.

Putting the idea to the test

We tested the idea with a retail customer, who was sending a large amount of bakery products to landfill.

Initially, we started with a pilot program at six of their stores and got the economics to work at those volumes.

Unexpected challenges when upscaling

A year later, we were ready to roll the solution out to the wider business but scaling up produced an unexpected challenge – the amount of organics we were collecting was rapidly decreasing.

Lower volumes meant that compactors storing bakery products  took more time to fill which in turn resulted in reduced truck collection frequency. The bread sitting in the compactors became mouldy, making it unsuitable for repurposed recovery.

The unexpected drop in volume made it challenging for us to continue to deliver an organics diversion service in a way that was economically and operationally feasible.

The waste hierarchy always wins

So why was this happening? A year earlier, our customer was sending most of their surplus bakery products to landfill. Through our collection and recovery service, we helped them move up to the middle of the waste hierarchy with food waste being diverted from landfill and recycled to make nutrient-rich compost for soil and scraps for animal feed.

But at the same time, our customer was improving their inventory management, optimising baking plans, extending the shelf life of produce and capturing opportunity cost. They were knocking it out of the park by working at the very top of the waste hierarchy and minimising the waste produced in the first place.

It become apparent to us that working at the higher levels of the waste hierarchy always trumps every other option. It’s less expensive for businesses to invest the time and effort to optimise their supply chain than it is to operate at sub-optimal rates and having the pay for the disposal and recovery of the waste further down the chain. The opportunity cost related to operations are practically eliminated when less waste is produced.

As sustainability partners, we were proud to support our customers’ efforts to achieve the best possible outcome for their sustainability goals.

We sought to investigate more ways to help our customer further reduce their volumes, which on the surface is counter-intuitive to a waste management service, as more volume means more recycling.

By doing so, we were helping our customer deliver the obvious environmental benefit but also social and economic benefits, through reduced operational and recycling costs.

Your sustainability partner

Good waste management is not only about recycling, it’s also implementing sustainability best practices throughout the organisation – from the supply chain to design, manufacture and disposal.

As your sustainability partner, Cleanaway works with our customers to analyse the actual waste generated, and then working with you to minimise that waste and maximise resource recovery.

Our end-to-end approach to waste management includes:

  • Waste audit and assessments

Analysing waste streams to identify opportunities for landfill diversion. This means knowing exactly what’s going in your bin, where it comes from and how to better manage the whole process.

  • Fit for industry

Understanding the unique requirements of your industry including the regulatory environment and the best treatment of each waste type.

  • Tailored business solutions

Maximising resource recovery by implementing bespoke waste management strategies customised for your business and in compliance with regulations.

  • Continuous improvement and education

Reinforcing positive practices with regular audits, reporting, waste management education and training sessions.


Contact us to learn more about how we partner with businesses across Australia to make a sustainable future possible.