Talking Point: Why waste it?

How can destinations manage resources for positive impacts?

How can you improve your waste management?

Waste has been a huge topic of conversation in recent years - with footage of the ocean suffocated by a churning mass of plastic and rubbish and landfills scarring the countryside. Notoriously, food is being thrown out by everyone from big chain hotels to the average household. Richard Walker, marketing manager at Reconomy offers some tips on getting a handle on waste.

Data from WRAP shows over two million tonnes of waste produced each year across the UK’s food and hospitality sector:

  • Hotels — produce 289,700 tonne of waste each year, including 79,000 tonnes of food waste (9% total food waste from the sector).
  • Pubs — produce 873,800 tonnes of waste each year, including 173,000 tonnes of food waste (19% total food waste from the sector).
  • Restaurants — produce 915,400 tonnes of waste each year, including 199,100 tonnes of food waste (22% total food waste from the sector).
  • Other hospitality sectors’ food waste contributions: quick service restaurants (8.3%), staff catering (2%), leisure (7%), services (3%), healthcare (13%) and education (13%).

Food waste isn’t just a UK issue. The National reported on food waste in Dubai, with the problem being fuelled by hotels and restaurants wasting ingredients on over-the-top portions.

In Egypt, Al-Monitor revealed that larger supermarkets are wasting 20% of produce due to insufficient storage facilities. They also reported that, food wastage from hotels and restaurants is particularly problematic. Buffet-style offerings can reuse and recycle food not taken, but many customers “have the habit of piling their plates”, says Egyptian Food Bank CEO, Moez El Shohdi. Anything uneaten on the plate goes in the bin.

Reusing waste food

In the UK, JD Wetherspoons recently announced that they have teamed up with FareShare, a charity dedicated to food redistribution. SHD Logistics reported, saying that the food donated by the pub chain is surplus after a recent menu shake-up, or food that has had its outer packaging damaged. While not problematic for the food itself, it isn’t cost-effective to make it commercially-viable again.

Reusing food destined for landfills is an idea that is gaining traction. The Real Junk Food Project is a UK-based global movement with the goal to abolish surplus food. This is achieved by intercepting food waste from a variety of places, such as hotels and restaurants, and using it as ingredients to prepare and serve in its many cafés and pop-up stalls across the country. The Real Junk Food Project also runs a “Pay As You Feel” scheme – basically, you pay what you want. You can part with your money, or your time by helping as a volunteer if you want to. The aim is to make sure everyone has access to a meal.

The concept of “Pay As You Feel” has worked so well that as the project has grown, they have opened sharehouses for people to take surplus food stocks themselves to use at home. Again, customers pay nothing or something, money or time.

In New Zealand, Nic Loosley has opened a Pay As You Feel restaurant called Everybody Eats, where visitors can enjoy a three-course meal prepared from food headed to landfills. The food is better used to feed those who might not be able to enjoy a meal otherwise. According to Loosely, around a third of people do leave money for the meals.

Become self-sustaining

Forbes revealed some of the ways the eco-hotel and spa, Six Senses, maintains luxury with sustainability. From villas built to stay cool, to air conditioning that turns off if the doors are opened, Six Senses have thought of everything when it comes to embracing balance.

The hotel has its own garden to provide fresh produce for their kitchens. The garden is tended without chemicals and is fed with recycled water. Any small addition like this can reduce the risk of over-purchase from a supplier.

Six Senses even manages its own fresh water – they bottle still and sparkling water in reusable glass bottles. The company treats, purifies, and mineralises its own water.

Preventing plastic waste

BRITA UK conducted a study, titled The Planet Around You: How Hospitality Businesses Are Addressing The Sustainability Challenge. It was noted that 70% of businesses are looking to cut down on single-use plastics, like straws and water bottles. Plus, 64% of consumers said they would likely return to a shop with the intent of making a purchase, if they could refill their water bottle.

The incentive of refillable water bottle stations could be further supported, says Martha Wardrop, Green councillor, when she spoke to the Evening Times:

“[There is a] need to help turn the harmful tide of plastic waste and litter from single-use plastic bottles,” she said, “which is damaging the marine environment and blighting our streets.” The councillor said that pubs and cafes could play their part by offering free drinking water to everyone, not only customers, by signing up to an initiative such as Refill.

USAToday revealed steps a number of hotels are taking in an active attempt to lower the use of plastic. From Hilton vowing to remove all plastic straws from its hotels by the end of 2018, to Marriott replacing the individually offered toiletries with reusable dispensers, no one is resting on their laurels. United Airlines recycled 13 million pounds of plastic and other materials in 2016, and Alaska Airlines are in the process of replacing plastic stirring sticks with white birch stirrers. McDonald’s have chosen to remove plastic straws from use at their restaurants.

Take a look at some of the utensils and equipment your hospitality business uses: could you replace them with a plastic-free alternative? Could you offer water refills, or switch out plastic single-use bottles to alternatives? What can you do today to avoid leaving a mark on landfills?

BRITA UK concluded that over 40% of hospitality businesses are seeking more information and advice on how to become more sustainable. You’re in the right place as Green Hotelier offers a raft of free Know How and information for hoteliers.

UK businesses can also reach out to Reconomy for advice.

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