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Bringing waste prevention to the heart of expansion strategy

The Strathearn Cheese Co. (Strathearn) is a small company based near Comrie in Perthshire with big expansion plans. Started in 2016, production has steadily grown, and Strathearn hope to double production over the next few years.

Business growth challenges for this micro-dairy, such as food waste costs account for roughly 14% of turnover. It was a problem they wanted to tackle.  

Advice from the Zero Waste Scotland programme helped the company to accelerate expansion plans by turning waste costs into profits. 

Through engagement with Zero Waste Scotland, Strathearn’s micro dairy have improved their profitability and look set to achieve:

  • 40% saving on cost of waste disposal;
  • £1,700 per annum reduction in waste costs;
  • £2,900 of lost product revenue reduced by replacing poor equipment;
  • Sustainability is now built into growth plans for the future;
    • 24,000 litres of whey waste to be redirected to animal feed;
    • Carbon saving of 6.6 tonnes CO2e from animal feed replacement;
    • Saving up to £4,000 on waste disposal costs.

With immediate payback on waste disposal costs, Strathearn instantly benefited from the Zero Waste Scotland food waste prevention service’s recommendations. Making a big impression on the company, the waste prevention advice is now helping Strathearn plan for their upcoming growth.

Waste whey is an inevitable by-product of the cheese-making process. When a cheese culture is added to milk, the process then leads to cheese curd, with whey being leftover in the milk vat once the curd has been removed and drained from the moulds. Currently this waste stream is sent to anaerobic digestion to extract energy from the waste food.

Because of the relatively small quantity of waste whey arising, Strathearn believed that there were only limited options for disposal. However, bearing in mind the company’s expansion and growth plans, the direct result is that the volume of waste whey will increase in proportion to production.

This opens up alternatives for the whey, so instead of becoming an increased cost to the business, with careful planning this can move the waste whey disposal options up the waste hierarchy and increase its value.

Following Zero Waste Scotland’s visit, future options which the company are now focusing on are providing whey as a feedstock. The particular benefit of whey re-use as animal feed is that it displaces the requirement for imported feed, such as soya. Substituting the whey as animal feed will save 2.4 tonnes of soya, which equates to estimated savings of 6.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.  

Strathearn also became aware of regular spoilage occurring in the cheese maturation room due to the poor climate control system. Zero Waste Scotland visited the site to perform a food waste opportunities assessment and it was established that the poor equipment was causing the company to lose around 7.4% of annual cheese production, or around £2,900 in lost revenue.

It was proposed that a new temperature and humidity control unit would reduce spoilage by at least 80%, with an identified payback of only 1.4 years. Strathearn applied to the Zero Waste Scotland’s Waste Prevention Implementation Fund to support the equipment’s purchasing costs, allowing them to save an estimated 800 portions of cheese per year from being sent to waste.

Planning ahead is helping the company look to control costs as it expands – showing that paying attention to waste today is helping pay for tomorrow’s expansion. 

“Receiving on-site support from Zero Waste Scotland has been invaluable – we focus on making artisan cheese, but the support has helped focus us on profitability from reducing waste. It was breaking our hearts to throw our cheese in the bin – and this is now a thing of the past as our quality is consistently excellent. In turn this is helping us to grow our business.” Drew Watson, Joint Owner.

Being a micro dairy company of two employees, the business was resigned to paying for the waste from the process – however, with Zero Waste Scotland’s advice, immediate savings have been demonstrated, which will improve both business growth and sustainability.

Get involved

Experiencing similar issues to Strathearn? Or do you just require help in preventing waste in general? Why not contact our food waste reduction team on 0786 433 930 or email food.drink@zerowastescotland.org.uk. We offer free and impartial one to one support.

You can also access our guidance documents for further information on food waste prevention in the dairy sector  or the wider manufacturing sector.

Our support to reduce your business costs through food waste prevention and reduction are funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.

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