Food waste has been at the forefront of my mind since last month’s Zero Waste Awards when I had the opportunity to find out more about an interesting project in London called FoodSave.
FoodSave has been working with small and medium-sized businesses in London to help reduce their food waste. It has also worked with organisations to put surplus food to good use and dispose of unavoidable food waste through solutions such as composting or anaerobic digestion.
What caught my attention was the statement on its website that annual average savings per organisation has been £5,894. Some of the case studies have been a real eye-opener, with one restaurant managing to save over £13,000 by reducing its food waste and another quoting a figure of over £14,000.
These are astonishing figures that can’t help but make you wince at the foregone waste while simultaneously applauding the turnaround. Naturally, other organisations quote a less eye-watering saving of £2,000, which in itself can make a huge difference to a small business. The case studies make interesting reading for any food service that is curious about exploring food waste efficiency.
WRAP (Waste Resource Action Plan) has also conducted significant research in this area at a national level. The charity estimates that the UK’s hospitality and food service sector generates almost 920,000 tonnes of food waste per year, costing the sector £2.5 billion. Its findings also reveal that 75 per cent of this is avoidable food waste, which with intervention strategies, could have been eaten.
So for a sector that deals in perishable products, fluctuating daily demands and unpredictable customer appetites, what can be done?
Tackling food waste on a domestic scale to bring in new habits can be tricky enough. When it comes to catering there are many other challenges. Analysing nine subsectors, including pubs, restaurants, education and hotels, WRAP’s research estimates that on average 21 per cent of food waste arises from spoilage, 45 per cent from food preparation and 34 per cent from customer plate waste. Varying problems, across different kinds of organisations, requiring different solutions.
However, just as WRAP has rolled out its successful Love Food Hate Waste toolkit for households, it is also the go-to place for any catering service wanting to investigate and take action to reduce food waste.
What’s more, its resources are free and there are lots of case studies that include restaurants, hotels and pubs. Greene King’s eight week trial at one of its Hungry Horse venues is also featured, highlighting a food waste saving of around 15 per cent per cover. Other resources include tips on management of food waste bins, questions to ask contractors, internal posters and briefing notes for staff. For full details visit www.wrap.org.uk/hospitality.
There are also some useful resources at the FoodSave website, which although London based shares knowledge that is widely relevant – www.foodsave.org
Just like any other process efficiency project, measurement of existing food waste is an important starting point as is evaluation and monitoring. Although this can be done manually, automated solutions are available to make this process easier. Winnow’s Smart Meter is an example of systems that are designed for busy kitchens, using touch-screen weighing technology that staff can incorporate into their routines. The results are regular reports that track and analyse performance. More information, including pricing, can be found at www.winnowsolutions.com.
WRAP predicts that by 2016, the value of the hospitality sector’s food waste will increase to £3 billion. As well as securing financial savings in tackling this now, the environmental benefits are just as significant, in that preventing avoidable food waste has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 million tonnes (CO2 equivalent).
If your organisation is working hard to reduce its food waste or already runs a resourceful kitchen, I’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, the WRAP report can be found at www.wrap.org.uk/content/overview-waste-hospitality-and-food-service-sector.