COVID-19 tools from the Wasted Food Action Alliance

This story originally appeared in the April 2020 Food & Beverage Manufacturing News. This monthly newsletter, focused on sustainability for the food and beverage industry, is a service of ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and is funded through a grant from U.S. EPA. You can subscribe to the newsletter here. 

COVID-19 is likely to have a prolonged impact on the health and well-being of residents in the greater Chicago foodshed which includes a 4-state region. A collaboration of local and regional food systems advocates created a matchmaking tool to connect needs and surplus in the Illinois institutional food system. Examples of listings include:

  • Those with a surplus of meat or vegetables that need a home
  • Those looking for local food to serve to displaced constituents
  • Those with a need for extra hands at their facilities (milkers, kitchen staff, drivers)
  • Those looking for job opportunities after their institution has closed or reduced labor
  • Those with additional storage space for food that needs to be preserved

In addition, the Wasted Food Action Alliance is conducting a survey [EnglishSpanishArabic] of small- and medium-size farms and for-profit and nonprofit food businesses/organizations impacted by COVID-19. This is not a one-time information-gathering process, but an ongoing effort to respond to challenges that can lead to a more sustainable food system. This is not a research project. You can complete the questionnaire multiple times as new challenges arise. Producers from all over Illinois are encouraged to complete the survey.

The Wasted Food Action Alliance is a diverse set of organizations helping build a unified approach towards reducing wasted food and leveraging it to benefit the state. Its mission is to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food by connecting and building on current wasted food initiatives, education, and policy in unified ways that holistically promote source reduction; food recovery for hunger relief and other uses; and recovery of food scraps for composting and creating healthy soil.

Safer sanitation in food and beverage manufacturing and processing

With funding from U.S. EPA, ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) is working with the food and beverage manufacturing and processing sector to help them reduce their energy consumption, water use, hazardous materials use, and operating costs. Cleaning and sanitation is a critical process throughout the industry and is one that is ripe for improvement.

By law, all food and beverage manufacturers and processors must have reliable processes in place to keep their products safe for human consumption. They are usually outlined in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). Cleaning and sanitation is critical in food safety to protect the processing environment from being inhabited by harmful microorganisms.

Cleaning and sanitation removes the food that bacteria need to grow and destroys any bacteria that may be present. The right prescription depends on the composition of food soils and the surface characteristics. The typical order for cleaning/sanitizing activities is:

  1. Dry clean
  2. Rinse
  3. Clean
  4. Rinse
  5. Sanitize

Common cleaning and sanitizing compounds include acids, alkali, phosphates and chlorine. In-plant storage, handling, and application of cleaning and sanitation compounds can be hazardous to workers. These products can also generate large volumes of wastewater and treatment costs to ensure that all post-sanitizing chemical residues are washed away.

Ozone generator
Ozone generator

With these challenges in mind, ISTC is working with the food and beverage industry to help clients identify and adopt safer, more environmentally benign cleaning and sanitation solutions, including aqueous ozone and electrolyzed water (EW).

Ozone has been widely studied as an anti-microbial for food application in this sector. It is approved for use by the FDA, USDA, FSIS, EPA and OSHA.

Electrolyzed water generator
Electrolyzed water generator

EW exhibits strong bactericidal, fungicidal, and viricidal effects in specific food applications but has not been as widely tested as ozone. It is approved in organic production and handling by USDA and received a Food Contact Notice (No. 1811) by the FDA for application of supplier specific technology to meat, poultry, fish, seafood; fruits and vegetables.

ISTC has a mobile aqueous ozone generator available to demonstrate the effectiveness of this technology. If your company is interested in learning more or scheduling a demonstration, contact Troy Walker or Dan Marsch.

Food and beverage manufacturers explore new efficiency approaches at ISTC workshop

On October 3,  participants from seven different food manufacturing companies gathered at Thatcher Woods Pavilion in River Forest to learn how to take sustainability to the next level at a workshop sponsored by ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, ComEd, Peoples Gas, and North Shore Gas.

Speakers updated the attendees on:

  • ways to reduce a facility’s environmental footprint and save money with pollution prevention and energy efficiency
  • improving water conservation by ensuring proper water chemistry in water and wastewater treatment systems
  • using aqueous ozone, a safer, more effective alternative to chemical sanitizers
  • LEAN for food and beverage manufacturing
  • utility energy efficiency programs
  • renewable energy opportunities
  • developing a supply-chain sustainability program

Two companies requested a free technical assistance visit during the workshop. If you work for a food or beverage manufacturer and want to improve your operating performance, decrease your costs, and use fewer toxic chemicals, schedule your free on-site assessment today.

Download the workshop presentations here.

Food and beverage manufacturers learn new sustainability approaches at ISTC workshop

On June 20, twenty-one people from seven different food manufacturing companies gathered in Champaign to learn how to take sustainability to the next level at a workshop sponsored by ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), Ameren Illinois, and Energy Resources Group, Inc.

Speakers updated the  attendees on:

  • energy efficiency opportunities for food manufacturers
  • ways to use renewables to make facilities net-zero enery
  • improving water conservation by ensurinng proper water chemistry in water and wastewater treatment systems
  • case studies highlighting waste reduction and diversion best practices
  • safer sanitation methods through effective alternatives
  • LEAN for food and beverage manufacturing

Two companies requested a free technical assistance visit during the workshop. If you work for a food or beverage manufacturer and want to improve your operating performance, decrease your costs, and use fewer toxic chemicals, schedule your free on-site assessment today.

Download the workshop presentations here.

New Illinois Sustainability Awards case study: Griffith Foods

ISTC’s latest case study features 2016 Illinois Sustainability Award winner Griffith Foods, a Alsip-headquartered manufacturer of seasonings, food textures and coatings, sauces, bakery and dough products, functional blends, and food safety solutions.

In 2015, the company conducted a materiality analysis to identify areas where they could make a positive impact on their triple bottom line — people, planet, and performance. They use this sustainability platform to drive their efforts within the company.

Some of the additional strategies they used to increase their efficiency and reduce their impact include:

  • Implemented sustainable supplier initiatives, which included a Supplier Sustainability Survey. The survey asked questions about avoiding slavery or child labor practices, discrimination, improve community involvement, ethics, favoring recycled materials, water conservation, reducing waste, energy and pollution, species sponsorship and charitable contributions. Suppliers receive a score based on their responses, which the company considers when making supplier decisions.
  • Launched a cafeteria recycling program with Aramark and Quincy Recycle.
  • Implemented ISO 14001 in all facilities.
  • Treats processed liquids at an on-site wastewater treatment plant, then sends it to the city for filtering and re-use. They truck the solids out of the plant and send them to be reused as farmland fertilizer.

Through these actions, Griffith Foods:

  • increased cafeteria recycling by 50%
  • funded 200,000 meals to combat hunger
  • diverted 1.3 million pounds of liquid waste from landfiils
  • reduced water use in sanitation by 537,000 gallons.

New E3 Success Story: Illinois Food Manufacturer

ISTC’s latest case study features an Illinois cannery that received an Economy, Energy, and Environment (E3) assessment. The parent company operates six manufacturing facilities. Their corporate headquarters has its own facility. Its products include both company branded and private labels with a wide variety of recipes. The Illinois site’s footprint is over 300,000 square feet and operates on a 24/4 schedule.  The E3 assessment evaluated the value stream from raw ingredient receiving through processing, canning, and labeling.

The assessment recommended nearly fifty best management practices that the company could use to save money and improve their efficiency. These included:

  • combined heat and power
  • renewable energy
  • controls and commissioning of electrical equipment
  • lighting upgrades to LED
  • variable frequency drives on process motors
  • compressed air system and steam distribution efficiencies
  • investigate aqueous ozone for sanitation
  • repair process water leaks
  • rainwater capture
  • installation of low flow devices in restrooms
  • recover recyclable materials

If the company implemented all of the recommendations, they could:

  • reduce electricity use by 7 million kWh and natural gas use by over 500,000 therms
  • conserve nearly 42 million gallons of water
  • reduce CO2 emissions by over 10,000 metric ton equivalents
  • save up to $1.2 million

The company has already fixed air leaks, which will reduce their yearly energy use by 168,000 kWh and save them over $15,000 annually. The site’s management team and corporate office are investigating other opportunities as well.

 

Food and beverage manufacturers discover new efficiency approaches at ISTC workshop

On March 27, twenty-five people from thirteen Illinois companies met in Collinsville to learn how to take sustainability to the next level at a workshop sponsored by ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), Ameren Illinois, and Energy Resources Group, Inc.

Speakers updated the  attendees on:

  • energy efficiency opportunities for food manufacturers
  • ways to use renewables to make facilities net-zero enery
  • improving water conservation by ensurinng proper water chemistry in water and wastewater treatment systems
  • case studies highlighting waste reduction and diversion best practices
  • safer sanitation methods through effective alternatives
  • LEAN for food and beverage manufacturing

All attendees were offered the opportunity for a free on-site assessment.

Another workshop is planned for the Champaign-Urbana area later this year.

Technical Assistance Program awarded $338,549 grant to assist food manufacturers

ISTC’s technical assistance program engineers have been awarded a $338,549 pollution prevention (P2) grant from U.S. EPA Region 5 to provide on-site pollution prevention technical assistance, including Economy, Energy and Environment (E3), to Illinois food and beverage manufacturers and processors. This assistance will result in reduced water and energy usage, hazardous materials generation, and reduce business costs.

This grant is part of the ongoing Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project.

Principal investigator Dan Marsch says, “Since its inception, ICORE has been a very successful program providing on-site P2 technical assistance to businesses in underserved communities across Illinois. ICORE is one of U.S. EPA Region 5’s flagship programs, delivering consistent results and leadership in sustainability within the region.”

Food and beverage manufacturers, processing facilities, and their direct suppliers and supporting industries are all eligible for assistance under through this project. Interested companies may contact:

Northern Illinois

Shantanu Pai
(630) 586-9168
spai@illinois.edu

Central Illinois

Troy Walker
(217) 300-1596
twalk@illinois.edu

Southern Illinois

Dan Marsch
(217) 300-4199
djmarsch@illinois.edu

Spotlight on U.S. EPA Region 5’s Food Manufacturing and Processing Industry

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze public data sets to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. The goal of this project was to use the analyzed results to assist pollution prevention technical assistance programs (P2 TAPs) with targeting their assistance efforts.

 

This paper summarizes preliminary findings related to the food manufacturing and processing industry (NAICS code 311).

 

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) national network of pollution prevention information centers and is hosted by ISTC.