Why it makes sense to tackle food waste

By Liam Garrahan contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food waste, Waste management, Waste

Why it makes sense to tackle food waste
Summer can be a lucrative time of year for pubs, restaurants and hotels, but the warm weather can also bring issues with food waste when left out for too long. 

It’s an issue highlighted by on-demand rubbish removal business Clearabee, which last week removed 81 tonnes of food waste, packaging and empty drinks bottles from 350 UK hospitality businesses.

Founder and managing director Daniel Long said, compared to the first week of June, last week’s heatwave had prompted a 224 per cent increase in waste collections. However, he said the figures were due to businesses opting to avoid the hygiene issues high temperatures can cause rather than an increase in the number of customers through the door.

“Pubs and restaurants built up volumes of rubbish that went well beyond what their regular waste management providers were contracted to collect,” he said.

“Booming demand and high temperatures are welcome, but they do create logistical challenges for hospitality businesses.”

Paying the price

While food waste piling up can lead to hygiene issues, it also doesn’t pay businesses to create too much of it in the first place.

According to estimates from food waste reduction company Winnow, food waste costs the public sector £150m per year. With yesterday’s budget announcement that employers will have to pay employees over 25 a National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour​, it makes financial sense for all sectors of the hospitality industry to cut costs where they can, including with food waste.

Marc Zornes, Winnow co-founder and CEO said: “Food waste is costing the public purse as much as £150m per year. That’s the equivalent of funding over 6,000 teachers, 1,400 doctors or 750 fire engines. The savings opportunity is huge.”

Winnow has developed a smart-meter to help chefs monitor what is put in bins, allowing them to make changes to their operations. The data showed that most of the waste was produced by over-production, allowing kitchens to reduce their costs by an average of 65 per cent.

Zornes said: “Globally, one-third of all food is wasted, we are confident that by working with our partners we can make a significant reduction in food waste.”

Scotland fights back

Legislation in Scotland now states that businesses producing more than 50kg of food waste per week are required to present it for separate collection. From 1 January 2016 this legislation will extend to cover companies producing more than 5kg per week. To support companies, waste collection company  Biffa have announced a new food waste service where they will transport it to an anaerobic digestion plant instead of landfill to convert it into energy. WRAP say that by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 27m tonnes businesses could save £2b if there is zero food waste to landfill by 2020.

Dave Wakelam, Biffa’s industrial and commercial director said: “Disposing of food waste responsibly is becoming increasingly important as landfill diversion becomes the focus of waste management policy and our Food Waste Collection service makes it easier and more affordable for businesses to play their part.”

Cutting the costs

There are many ways hospitality businesses can cut their food waste costs.

A Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) case study on Crieff Hydro Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, showed that they reduced their food waste costs by approximately 43 per cent, which equates to 11.5 tonnes of food and £51,750 per year. They achieved this by making smaller batches of food, using smaller buffet containers and engaging the staff by setting weekly waste reduction targets.

WRAP also found that 45 per cent of food was wasted during preparation with 21 per cent being wasted as a result of spoilage. Their research also claims that 34 per cent of customers leave food on their plate, leading to suggestions that portion sizes are too large.

The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) launched their campaign Too Good to Waste to minimise food waste within restaurants that signed up to the scheme. They suggest using leftover food from preparation in other dishes, such as turning orange peels into marmalade and using broccoli stalks in soup.

The association says that a chef’s cutting technique could also impact on the food waste that they produce and that chefs should learn old cutting techniques to get the most from meat, vegetables and other produce. The campaign also encourages restaurants to shun the “stigma” surrounding doggy boxes and encourage diners to take their food home.

WRAP and the SRA’s top tips for minimising food waste and saving money:

  • Monitor food waste so chefs can easily change how they operate.
  • Offer diners doggy boxes.
  • Offer smaller portion sizes.
  • Install an organic waste treatment facility.
  • Use leftover food from preparation in other recipes.
  • Engage staff by creating and reviewing targets regularly.
  • Use less ingredients across the menu where possible.
  • Listen to waiting staff feedback on food.

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