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Flour milling and the environment

As responsible producers, flour millers work continuously to improve their environmental performance and reduce their impacts on the environment.

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Environmental impacts

Flour milling is energy intensive; the process is centred on breaking open the wheat kernel and progressively refining it to meet customer specifications for bread making and other uses. The process uses electricity to power rollers, sieves, and other machinery across the mill. Flour millers closely focus on energy efficiency to ensure that its use and associated costs are kept as low as possible.


As a manufacturing process, flour mills in the United Kingdom (UK) operate under environmental permits, issued under the Industrial Emissions Directive by the Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.


Millers operate dust filters across their mills to manage emissions of dust; noise generation is also tightly controlled.

Flour milling: a zero-waste process

Millers process wheat into flour. The process of milling splits the white endosperm which makes up the bulk of the kernel from the outer layers, the bran. The flour goes into making bread and other food products and the bran is used either in breakfast cereals or other baked goods; it is also widely used in animal feed.

The only waste from the milling process is the adventitious materials which have come in with the grain, which can include stones. These are removed as part of pre-milling screening before the wheat is processed.

Environmental performance management

All flour millers run environmental management systems (EMS) to track and manage their environmental performance. The management systems, independently audited to ISO14001, are founded on the principle of continuous performance improvement.

Local communities

Flour mills have often been central to their local communities for generations. Our members are good neighbours, supporting their communities and engaging over any questions or concerns.

Climate change

All primary processors of food, including flour millers in the UK, are affected by climate change. The increasing variability in weather patterns and the more frequent extreme weather conditions can have a major impact on growing conditions and consequently on grain quantity and grain quality.

Grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats are the indispensable raw material to produce flour that will be used in bread and other final products. Millers produce flour to strict customer specifications and in the UK, we are working with the whole supply chain (breeders, farmers, merchants, retailers) to find solutions to produce more resilient wheat with less impact on the environment.

Carbon footprint

Flour milling activities which generate carbon include growing wheat, transporting it to the mill, processing it into flour, and then shipping it on to customers. The carbon footprint of milling is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions that are produced in these activities.


All activities, from farm to mill to bakery, have a carbon footprint. A distinction is made amongst the emissions between those which are direct emissions and indirect emissions (see diagram).

Image designed by Maltdoctor Ltd based on the GHG Protocol

The main gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These emissions are expressed in equivalent tons of CO2 (CO2e).


UK flour millers are working on the progressive reduction of their Scopes 1 and 2 emissions (see diagram), reflected by progress in renewable energy and energy efficiency.


Scope 3 emissions (see diagram) are more complex to address and making progress in this area is one of the main focuses of UK flour millers. The principal contributor to millers’ scope 3 emissions is the faming of the main raw material, wheat, which has been estimated to represent more than 60% of flour’s carbon footprint.

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