Talking Point: Take a stand on food waste and deliver big savings

How many ways can you reduce food waste?

How many ways can you reduce food waste?

This week in our Talking Point blogspot looking at waste and food waste, Philip Simpson, commercial director at leading food waste recycler, ReFood, discusses how hotels can make significant environmental and financial savings by reducing their food waste.

Did you know that your bins could contain the key to improving your bottom line? It may sound ridiculous, but by reducing, reusing and recycling food waste, significant savings are available to businesses and in particular hotels.

Figures from WRAP estimate that the hospitality sector produces around 600,000 tonnes of food waste each year and of this, 400,000 tonnes could have been eaten if it had been better planned, portioned, stored or prepared. Meanwhile, research from The Sustainable Restaurant Association examining the reasons for most restaurant wastage concluded that 65% came from preparation waste, 30% was from plate scrapings and 5% resulted from spoilage.

In black and white these figures are stark. However they can be tackled and reduced with the potential for big savings.

There are three key steps.

  1. Reduce food wastage.
    Some food in restaurants gets wasted because of over-ordering or poor storage. Check your stocks carefully and plan menus before you order so you know exactly how much you need. Don’t display food that won’t get used. Signpost customers to request items not on display. Try reducing orders throughout the week and inventing recipes that use up old stock before it goes out of date.
  2. Reduce plate wastage.
    Check your portion sizes and don’t overfill plates. Use smaller plates and make it clear to customers they can ask for a larger portion if they would like it. Design menus with sharing platters as these tend not to produce wastage. Offer pre-prepared dishes which aren’t being ordered as amuse bouche gifts from the kitchen. Turn un-served leftovers into new dishes, for example make bread and butter pudding from un-used bread. Offer doggy bags.
  3. Reduce kitchen scraps.
    Plan menus that utilise the whole of the fish, vegetable or animal. Create stocks from offcuts. Scrub vegetables instead of peeling them.

While there is much that can be done in terms of waste prevention, there will always be food waste that can’t be used, and for this green hoteliers can look to recycling. Food is a valuable resource and shouldn’t be squandered in landfill. Instead it can be turned into energy and nutrient-rich fertiliser for use on new crops.

The phrase ‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’ couldn’t be more true than when it comes to food waste. Tackling the amount produced via offcuts, food preparation and plate scrapings can make a significant difference to the bottom line. However, putting it to better use still isn’t common practice amongst hoteliers.

There are many reasons behind a lack of uptake. For instance many will rightly assume they don’t waste food and therefore don’t need to recycle. However, it’s not conscious wastage that we’re talking about, it’s the inevitable elements; the tops off strawberries, potato peelings and customers’ leftovers.

The key to understanding the waste generated is to firstly separate it. Try it. It’s surprising how it builds up, and with this knowledge comes power – to change recipes, menus or identify new reuse options and ensure that more is reused rather than binned.

Financial drivers are the strongest reasons for businesses to make changes. In wasting food, businesses are paying for it twice. Not only are you throwing away what you’ve paid for, you then have to pay for it to be collected and disposed of at landfill. And these costs are rising on an annual basis.

Recycling food waste can reduce disposal costs by up to 45 per cent. While operating separate collections may seem like an additional expense, the reality is it can significantly reduce existing waste costs. This is achieved by not only eliminating the need to pay landfill tax but also reducing collections of other residual waste materials such as glass, plastics and packaging. Without the biodegradable element of food, there is no impact – other than space – from keeping these materials on site for a couple of weeks, which means further financial savings through less frequent collections.

The other common barrier to uptake is the perception that food waste bins are dirty or that it’s another process for which kitchen staff don’t have time. Both these views are far from reality. In terms of it being another process for staff, waste is still thrown in a bin, it’s just into one that’s specifically for food waste. ReFood’s model provides customers with a new, clean and sanitised bin when it takes away full bins. This means that hoteliers can confidently use ReFood bins directly in their kitchens, meaning any inevitable food waste – which can include packaged items and bones – can be thrown away as it’s generated, making recycling incredibly simple and efficient.

Recycling food waste can make an important difference to a hotelier’s bottom line, and for those keen to operate as sustainably as possible measuring how much waste is reduced and recycled can help them to achieve great green credentials.

In the UK, 40% of all food waste ends up in landfill where it produces harmful methane that has a global warming potential 21 times greater than CO2. For every tonne of food waste recycled, there is a CO2 saving of 0.5 tonnes, in addition to providing a renewable energy resource and organic fertiliser.

To find out more about food waste recycling visit http://www.refood.co.uk/ or pledge your commitment to eradicating food waste from landfill at http://www.vision2020.info/.

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