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McCain Foods fights food waste with the University of Canterbury

The McCain Foods Timaru plant

Australian business McCain Foods has strengthened its fight against bio-waste at its Timaru plant, partnering with the University of Canterbury.

The university’s study Sustainable is Attainable researched ways to repurpose food waste, a major problem in New Zealand and around the world.

Pledging to “close the loop” on food waste, the study encompasses the whole value chain, including farmers, growers, operators, processors and exporters. Venture Timaru helped coordinate the research.

McCain worked with students and supervisors at the Biomolecular Interaction Centre at the university, who did analysis to appraise the food plant’s food-waste streams. The students found ways to repurpose or reuse waste prioritising bio-waste, plastics and effluent. McCain is one of 22 local businesses contributing to the study. 

“McCain always welcomes new ways to evolve our operations, and working with the students at University of Canterbury aligns with our ‘Be Good. Do Good’ values,” said Ross Amato, ANZ environment manager at McCain Foods.

“As new professionals make their way into the field, they bring new ideas that help us grow as a business and as an industry. Opportunities like this are so important in showcasing New Zealand’s environmental progress to a global audience.”

McCain said the research found new ways early on to repurpose bio-waste, such as converting it to high-value soil conditioners and stock food. Starch waste can be converted to edible/non-edible and biodegradable plastics and polyphenol-rich extract have medical purposes.

“One of the many opportunities identified was the ability to generate fuel from bio-waste. With businesses working together on this study, the students have been able to identify the potential of our combined waste streams,” Amato said.

The food manufacturer stressed in a statement that “the war on waste must be an industry-wide collaborative effort”. McCain continues to commit to Growing Green and Local, sustaining communities, local economies, farmers and jobs.

“It’s great to see such great cooperation between a range of companies in the sector to tackle these issues,” said Venture Timaru CEO Nigel Davenport. “As a key employer in the region, McCain Foods’ involvement enables this program to operate at scale – working towards a greener Timaru.”

The University of Canterbury students are currently working with other universities and agencies in Australia. McCain’s next step will be to prioritise the opportunities and begin the verification from a scientific and commercial perspective.

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