Dawn Meats reduces packaging by over 880 tonnes – equivalent to 100m plastic carrier bags

Dawn Meats has saved 885 tonnes of plastic in the last two years as part of a 15% reduction in plastic use across its rigid trays, films and flexibles used for retail packaging.

The figure is equivalent to about 100 million plastic carrier bags and the company’s new plastic reduction measures will ultimately save a total of 800 tonnes a year.

The figures are contained in a new sustainability update from the leading meat processor, which also shows that Dawn Meats has achieved a reduction of 49% in location-based scope 1 and 2 emissions and 15% in Scope 3 emissions intensity. Overall, the company has achieved a 9.6% reduction in total emissions.

The company is now powering all of its sites using 100% renewable electricity and recycling and reusing 51% of all waste, excluding that which is sent for energy generation.

The update covers the period from January 2021 to June 2023 and charts the company’s progress in delivering on its €100m-plus Plan Four Zero sustainability strategy, which includes a target of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 absolute emissions by 59% by 2030 and reaching Net Zero by 2040.

The progress includes a 49% reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions from 2016 to 2022 through a range of measures and a reduction in total emissions of 9.6% over the same time period. Some of the measures taken to achieve these reductions include:

• Procuring 100% of electricity requirements across all sites in the UK and Ireland from renewable sources
• Progressing towards on-site renewable energy generation, including solar and wind
• Upgrading refrigeration systems and reducing fugitive (leaked) emissions
• Upgrading equipment and boilers to burn lower carbon fuels
• Switching to renewable sources of thermal energy generation to heat water and renewable sources of heat recovery such as heat pumps
• Employing lean management principles in daily operations

Other key developments include:

Water: The update shows that the company has saved 22,000 m3 a year through a range of capital expenditure projects and system upgrades undertaken in the last two years. From the company’s baseline, it has now saved a total of 3.1 million m3, which is enough water to fill 1,243 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Energy: Dawn Meats is now sourcing 100% renewable energy to power all of its sites in Ireland and the UK. It has also implemented a range of capital expenditure projects and system upgrades in the last two years, which has meant savings of 2.8m kWh per year. From its baseline in 2016, Dawn Meats has now saved enough energy to power 20,875 homes for a year.

Waste: The company has a target of increasing the volume of waste recycled, reused and recovered to 60% by 2030. The update shows that following the implementation of 16 initiatives over the last two years, including, including capital expenditure projects and employee engagement projects, this figure is now at 51%. Food waste from production as a percentage of finished product is now consistently below 1%. Since 2016, Dawn Meats has adopted a lean approach that has resulted in zero waste being sent to landfill.

Packaging: The company has achieved a 15% reduction in plastic use across its rigid trays, films and flexibles, amounting to a total saving of 885 tonnes of plastic. The total packaging solutions delivered to date are now expected to result in future plastic savings of 800 tonnes a year.

The company initiated a project to deliver a new vacuum packaging solution for mince, which uses 55% less plastic and increases product shelf life by 25% helping to reduce food waste.

Dawn Meats has a target of ensuring that it uses an average of 30% recycled content across all plastic by 2025. The update shows that all the rigid trays currently used by the company now have a recycled content of over 50% and all the film lids used on modified atmosphere packaging now have 30% recycled content. The company is working with packaging suppliers to develop a similar solution for vacuum packaging film. In the UK, plastic liners used by Dunbia contain 30% recycled film and the company is in the process of introducing the same type of film for pallet wrapping.

The company has also set a target of the plastic it uses being 100% re-usable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. This has proved challenging for a number of reasons. In the UK, where Dawn Meats operates as Dunbia, infrastructure to recycle flexible films has yet to be introduced. A safe solution for re-useable red meat primary packaging also needs to be developed and the company is actively collaborating with packaging suppliers and researchers to identify a viable solution.

Farming: The company’s target is to reduce Scope 3 emissions intensity by 28% per tonne of finished product by 2030 with a plan to reach Net Zero by 2050. This target relates to emissions from the sourcing of live cattle and sheep from 40,000 regular farmer suppliers across Ireland and the UK, and other meat products, both of which account for 70% of Dawn Meats’ total emissions.

From 2016 to 2022, the company has achieved a 15% reduction in Scope 3 emissions intensity mainly due to a reduction in the average carbon footprint on the assured farms that supply products to Dawn Meats.

In Ireland, Bord Bia calculate a carbon footprint for over 96% of the company’s Irish cattle suppliers who are members of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme. Large scale farm footprint data production is not in place in the UK, so Dunbia is working with Promar, a consultancy, to measure emissions from 200 lamb farms and 300 beef farms. Farmers receive a feedback report outlining their emissions hotspots and are recommended actions that they can take to bring emissions down. Farm carbon footprints are repeated every 18–24 months to monitor progress.

Through Farm Green, Dawn Meats’ supplier engagement initiative, the company shares learnings with its suppliers using video, webinars and case studies. Approximately 500,000 cattle are now in emissions monitoring programmes at any one time, which is 49% of Dawn Meats’ cattle supply. A total of 5,000 farmers have been reached through the company’s knowledge sharing initiatives.

Dawn Meats is also working on building a model to calculate bespoke carbon footprints for its products, including emissions from cradle to factory gate. The UK-based Carbon Trust will verify the model to ensure data quality and credibility.

The Plan Four Zero update states that research from Teagasc, the UK-based Centre for Innovation in Livestock and the British Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board shows that significant farm-based reductions have been and will continue to be achieved through the following measures:

• Advancements in genetics, genomics and breeding
• Optimising feed conversion and liveweight gain
• Reducing the age of cattle at slaughter
• Employing feed additives which are proven to reduce methane from enteric fermentation
• Using slurry spreading technologies that involve lower emissions
• Replacing calcium ammonium nitrate with protected urea or organic fertilisers lower in nitrogen
• Optimising soil health and grassland management and employing regenerative farming practices
• Avoiding deforestation, limiting land use change and planting trees and hedgerows.

Dawn Meats discloses its sustainability figures to the CDP Climate Change and Forests Questionnaires. It ranked among the A-list companies in 2021 and 2022. In line with best practice the company’s emissions inventory is independently verified by the UK-based Carbon Trust.

The update report contains a series of case studies on the work undertaken by the company to reduce emissions and waste while also reducing its energy, water, packaging and plastic use.

Niall Browne, Chief Executive of Dawn Meats, said: “At Dawn Meats and Dunbia, we recognise that our future relies upon the health of our natural world and the wellbeing of our communities. Sustainability has been central to our business plan for over 40 years, and we collaborate with others to reach shared goals. We also recognise that achieving our targets requires real action, which is why we have committed €100m by 2030 as part of our Plan Four Zero initiative. Getting to Net Zero involves big changes within our business and transformation across our supply chain. This progress report shows just how committed we are to implementing the wide-ranging and advanced measures required to allow us do this.”

Gill Higgins, Sustainability Director at Dawn Meats, said: “At Dawn Meats and Dunbia, we are serious about reaching our ambitious targets and I’m pleased to say we are making real progress in this regard. This update report outlines the wide range and high number of projects we have invested in and the system changes we have introduced. These science-based measures have allowed us to achieve a series of important and carefully measured savings on emissions, energy, water usage, packaging and waste. In addition, we are committed to working with the rest of the industry to address wider sustainability challenges and to remain competitive in the marketplace. As we continue to achieve results, we will continue to increase our ambition and our investment.”

Click to view the latest Plan Four Zero Update


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