Environmental Sustainability

ABP closes the loop in McDonald’s supply chain

ABP Food Group is one of Europe’s leading agri-business companies employing more than 10,000 people across 51 processing sites in nine countries.

The company was founded over 60 years ago and operates across four divisions: Beef, Renewables, Pet Foods and Proteins. ABP is recognised globally for supplying high quality beef for the retail, food service and manufacturing sectors. More than 200 Michelin Star restaurants around the world serve ABP Beef on their menu and all beef products supplied by the business are DNA traceable to their farm of origin.

In Northern Ireland, ABP has two processing sites located in Newry and Lurgan. The company employs 655 people and works with 4,000 farmers across the province. In 2017, ABP entered into a joint venture partnership with Linden Foods.

ABP is a fully integrated agri-business. Its main business division is Beef, supported by three tangential divisions: Pet Foods, Renewables and Proteins. This unique structure ensures that there is no waste from the processing of meat, with all by-products fully utilised by the supporting divisions. This is called 100% by-product recovery. The so called “waste” material is converted into bio-fuels and other products of value. For example: “waste” bovine bones are manufactured into gel-bone chips by the Proteins Division and these chips are then used to manufacture gelatine for the pharma and cosmetic industries. Tallow and “waste” oils are converted into bio-diesel by the Renewables Division while waste meat products are used in the Pet Food Division.

In 2016, ABP became the first food company to achieve quadruple accreditation from The Carbon Trust in recognition to the work it was undertaking to reduce its environmental impact across the supply chain.

ABP have a fully-owned subsidiary company called Olleco which collects waste food and cooking oil from the retail and food service sector and converts this waste into bio-diesel, bio-gas, electricity and organic fertiliser. In April 2019, ABP invited a group of Business in the Community Northern Ireland’s member organisations to visit sites operated by Olleco and, third party logstics provider, Martin Brower. During the visit, businesses such as Moy Park, Devenish Nutrition, and ISL Waste saw how Olleco and Martin Brower work together to create a “closed loop” in which the waste resources from McDonald’s are collected, transformed and redeployed in their supply chain.

How Olleco deliver the circular economy

Martin Brower and Olleco collect used cooking oil (UCO) and food waste from McDonald’s restaurants. Olleco then converts the oil into premium biodiesel at their biorefinery and process the food waste through their anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to create renewable energy and fertiliser. The energy is then used to power the neighbouring Arla carbon net zero diary which processes the organic milk used in McDonald’s restaurants. Meanwhile, the biodiesel made from the used cooking oil, is used to fuel McDonald’s transport fleet, which is operated by Martin Brower. The digestate by-product from the AD facility is applied back to farmland as a nutrient rich bio-fertiliser to grow food to supply restaurants, completing the loop and creating a circular economic solution for McDonald’s.

Martin Brower deliver food to all of McDonald’s 1300 restaurants in the British Isles. Used cooking oil is removed from fryers in McDonald’s restaurants to a stainless-steel container called an ‘OSCAR’ (Oil Storage Container Assisting Restaurants). By using this automated, reverse-logistics model, Martin Brower reduces labour costs and the risk of spillages and potential accidents in transit. Over 4.2 million litres of used cooking oil are collected in this way every year. Martin Brower also collect other materials for recycling from the restaurants, including over 20,000 tonnes of cardboard. This reverse logistics model for recycling  saves  5000 journeys annually reducing the distance travelled by contractors by1.8 million kilometres.

The organic waste is brought to Olleco’s Anaerobic Digestion plant where they have pioneered an innovative depackaging system to remove any non-organic waste, which may have been placed in the incorrect bin. The food waste is then mulched and pumped underground to three large anaerobic digestion tanks where it is broken down by micro-organisms. The biogas produced  from the digestor is used to generate electricity and heat and the resulting digestate is used as a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser.

One of the most impressive things about the closed loop Olleco and Martin Brower have created is that fact that they are using 100% biodiesel in their operations. This has been achieved partly by Olleco working to exceed the normal quality standards to refine an exceptional biodiesel but also by Martin Brower. They overcame difficulties with operating biodiesel at low Winter temperatures by deploying solutions pioneered in Scandinavian countries where temperatures would regularly drop below the freezing point of regular diesel. A bespoke biodiesel heating system was then developed for all of Martin Brower’s trucks and this has since been rolled out across their whole fleet. This allows biodiesel to be used in 100% concentrations throughout the year, reducing in CO2 emissions by 86%.

Olleco achieved second place at the World Economic Forum Circular Economy Awards 2019 for this innovative initiative which has enabled two giants of the food industry to deliver transformational changes in the way they operate. Olleco has also become the first dedicated circular economy company to be granted a Royal Warrant by Her Majesty The Queen.

Impacts and Outcomes

  • Over 100,000 tonnes of organic waste is converted into heat and power each year
  • 1 million litres of used cooking oil were collected from McDonald’s restaurants from 2007 – 2018. No used cooking oil now goes to landfill
  • 86% conversion rate for used cooking oil recycled into biodiesel
  • McDonald’s deliveries are using 100% bio-diesel
  • Significant reduction in CO2 emissions

Read more about the Business in the Community Circular Economy Networks here.