The grocery industry has a good reputation for transport optimisation, but it should not shy away from the use of biofuels in light of the food versus fuel dilemma.

When food industry leaders call for a scrap to all mandatory biofuel targets there is the danger that the industry stands still while scientists and governments find solutions.

Yes, there is intense debate on whether biofuels are doing more harm than good, but there are opportunities to develop alternative fuels that don’t push up food prices or destroy natural habitats.

Keystone Distribution UK’s solution was to work with our customer McDonald’s UK to develop a biofuel manufactured from 100% converted used cooking oil. Two of our three fleets, comprised of about 90 vehicles, are now running on 100% biofuel. We are achieving massive environmental savings: our carbon emissions will be reduced by 5,795 tonnes this year. There is also the added bonus of saving about £750,000 from swapping expensive regular diesel for our biofuel.

We are not naïve enough to think that this will be the perfect solution for everyone in the food industry as there is a limited supply of quality used cooking oil. But each business needs to look at the opportunities within its own supply chain.

We are lucky in that we have 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants with a ready supply of waste oil to exploit. Although that rich reservoir will not be available to grocery retailers, they should be looking at working collaboratively with their own suppliers, or even converting waste oil from their in-store restaurants.

But what works for us won’t work for all. We embarked on our project in 2006 and it’s been a huge collaborative effort between McDonald’s, suppliers and processors.

As the market becomes much more sophisticated and our understanding of biofuels increases, there will be ways for the grocery and foodservice industry to make major contributions to carbon reduction.

Developing biofuel from cooking oil will be just one part of a wider strategy that the food industry needs to take to decrease our collective impact on the environment.

Paul Pegg is vice president of Keystone Distribution UK.