Carbon management company Carbon Statement has been commissioned by members of its forum, who include Nando's and Pizza Hut, to find the best way to not only recycle the 200,000 tonnes food waste produced per year, but crucially to increase the amount of energy produced from it.
"Everybody says they want to do it and lots of companies are having a go at it, but running into trouble, so here's a great opportunity to improve on the recycling rates and better manage that waste," said Peter Charlesworth of Carbon Statement.
Energy from food
Part of Charlesworth's task is to map out where members of the forum's restaurants are located in relation to existing and planned anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. By converting those 200,000 tonnes of food waste into energy Carbon Statement estimates that it could produce enough electricity to power 20,000 homes for one year.
However, according to findings from the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, more than half of the food waste from the 12,000 restaurants and pubs who make up its membership is currently going to landfill due to a lack of available anaerobic digestive capacity in England and Wales and inconsistent nationwide waste contractor coverage.
"Today there is little co-ordination between the supply of food waste, collection and the positioning of sites. Since Scottish legislation bans food waste to landfill from 2014, we need to act now, together as an industry, to tackle this problem," said Charlesworth.
Charlesworth told BigHospitality he was also in talks with the industry to evaluate the most cost effective range of commercial options. These include backhauling food waste direct to an existing AD plant, using one waste contractor with a network of AD facilities and even building a new AD plant specifically for forum members.
“The industry has a great opportunity to collaborate to improve efficiencies of collection and benefit from volume deals with the food waste to energy companies. These benefits include removing landfill charges, reducing backhauling and transportation costs and associated carbon emissions while earning money from generating energy,” he said.
The initiative has received support from restaurant and pub groups such as Whitbread and Mitchells & Butlers who are looking for more cost effective ways to recycle food waste, which makes up approximately 45 per cent of all waste produced by restaurants.
Chris George, head of energy & environment for Whitbread, said: “We already recycle restaurant food waste to support our zero waste to landfill targets, so the introduction of back hauling initiatives and opportunities are interesting to explore alongside the benefits and best practice of industry collaboration.”
Charlotte Henderson, WRAP Programme Area Manger said: “WRAP is delighted to support this collaborative and innovative approach to increasing the recycling rate of food waste and reducing the amount that ends up in landfill.”