The Centre for Design and Society at RMIT University teamed up with Plenty Food Group (PFG), a food manufacturing industry network for companies (retail, food service and hospitality industries) based in Melbourne’s north, to develop a tool to measure and reduce the waste generated by local food producers. The project initially focused primarily on food waste which has significant amounts of energy, water and carbon embodied within the production part of the supply chain, though other waste streams including packaging and general waste were also considered. The project started with waste audit data collection to quantify and understand the amount and causality of waste produced by a sample of PFG members. Work then progressed to tool and strategy development of DIRECT with PFG members, implementation assistance for use of DIRECT, review of the PFG member’s capacity, perceptions and understanding around resource efficiency through the use of DIRECT, and dissemination of these results of the tool development.
DIRECT was co-designed with owners, CEOs, CFOs, and production managers from food manufacturers within the Plenty Food Group. In that process DIRECT became tailored, functional, and practical for users within the food industry. This meant DIRECT evolved from simply being a waste audit tool, to being something of far more value to business through the inclusion of the calculation of the true cost of waste, and resource efficiency ratios on both a mass and cash basis. Waste was regarded as a resource, and as such the DIRECT process now refers more prominently to resources rather than to waste. The inputs, outputs, functionality, resources and strategies that DIRECT incorporates had heavy influence from industry, in order to make the most relevant and useful tool for industry. This was to ensure that DIRECT would be implemented by as many companies as possible. For more information on the input of industry to the development of DIRECT, please browse the case studies provided online.