Celebrating its 13th anniversary and running from 7th-11th September, Zero Waste Week is all about encouraging businesses and individuals to adopt waste management best practices, from changing habits to become more sustainable, to protecting the environment and preserving our precious natural resources. While last year was all about climate change awareness, this year’s Zero Waste Week theme will be centred around reducing food waste.
According to Rachelle Strauss, Founder of Zero Waste Week, this year’s campaign will help to illustrate how easy it is to adopt a zero-waste mentality in your business:
“It’s vital that businesses, governments and citizens come together in a bid to call time on the vast amount of food that gets wasted. By making Zero Waste Week accessible to all, we can make a huge difference.”
What actions can you take to move closer to a zero-waste workplace? We have come up with some actions you can take to start reducing your business food waste, along with best practices to effectively dispose of your food waste in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
How do you reduce your business food waste?
With one-third of all food produced for human consumption going to waste, it is clear that the level of food waste generated is not simply an issue limited to one country or region; it is a problem impacting the entire world. In fact, the combined amount of food waste in the United States and Europe alone could feed the world three times over. The following are some key considerations and waste reduction techniques you can implement throughout your business:
- Look beyond best before dates. When food is stored correctly, it could be eaten days, weeks, months or even years after expiration dates depending on the food product.
- Manage food deliveries. As a hospitality business, ensure your food supplier uses appropriate delivery methods and handles food with care, such as using the right type of packaging to prevent food from spoiling.
- Avoid buying too much food close to its expiry date to save on costs. Whilst this might appear to save you money, unfortunately, this leads to food having a shorter shelf life before spoiling and ultimately going to waste.
- Avoid over-buying. This often happens when businesses in the hospitality and food service industry purchase too much food which then does not get used or consumed.
- Take stock and measure food waste. Track how much food you are ordering to avoid buying more than necessary. Measure food waste in your organisation to figure out which food items are being wasted, how often and why. You can then take action to prevent food waste based on your findings.
- Manage your food surplus. In the event that you have bought too much food, the best way to manage this surplus is to prepare and store the food correctly. This might includes freezing or drying meats and fruits and applying portion management methods.
- Use proper storage conditions. Good storage conditions help prevent food from going bad. Use a first-in-first-out storage principle — this prevents food from accumulating in the back of cupboards and fridges, going unused until they have expired or spoiled and need to be thrown away.
- Set up internal food waste bins. To ensure everyone in your business is doing their part to dispose of their food waste in the right way, ensure internal bins have stickers and posters which state what goes in them. These stickers are essential to provide all of the information you need know to separate your waste in the right manner.
- Engage with food waste prevention programs. Follow WRAP’s national food waste programs for professional expertise and guidance on avoiding and preventing food waste.
The benefits of reducing food waste
In 2016, the United Nations announced a united global effort to halve food waste levels by 2030. With this goal set into motion, a variety of environmental, economic and social benefits will develop over time from the global reduction of food waste.
Below are the top benefits of effective food waste reduction and disposal:
Closed-loop solutions: Sustainable food waste disposal
When food waste is properly segregated from other waste streams and collected separately from general waste, it can be treated in two ways as closed-loop solutions — from creating compost, soil conditioner and fertiliser for farms, to generating heat and electricity for homes and businesses.
- In-vessel composting: This process involves processing a mix of food and garden waste using a tunnel or vessel to compost it in around six to eight weeks. Temperatures here reach up to 70°C, which kills any harmful microbes. Typically, after one to three months of maturing, it can be used as compost or soil conditioner.
- Anaerobic digestion: This is an advanced and environmentally friendly way to treat food waste. During this process, microorganisms are used to break down food waste inside an enclosed tank in the absence of oxygen. As this happens, it releases biogas (i.e. methane), which can be used for injection into the gas grid or as fuel to generate electricity and heating. It can also be used for transport fuel, such as in waste collection vehicles. The process creates fertiliser, known as digestate, which is used in agriculture. This ensures that what starts on the farm ends on the farm.
Fact: The food waste collected by Commercial Waste Services is treated via anaerobic digestion. Every year the food waste we deliver for anaerobic digestion produces enough fertiliser to grow the wheat used for 580,000 loaves of bread.
Improving air quality
Diverting waste from landfill and moving toward more sustainable approaches to food waste disposal (i.e. in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion) decreases pollution and improves air quality.
When food is disposed of irresponsibly, for example when it is sent to landfill sites, it releases methane into the atmosphere. According to National Geographic, compared to carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas which has more than 28 times the global warming potential on a 100-year timeline and is more than 80 times more powerful over 20 years.
Reducing water and energy usage
By reducing food waste, you are reducing the energy, costs and water usage it would take to grow, manufacture, transport and sell excess food. Over a quarter of the world’s water supply is used to plant, grow and produce food that is later wasted. In fact, producing meat products requires the most water usage (10 times more than producing grain). If you throw out one kilogram of beef, this equates to wasting nearly 50,000 litres of water that was used to produce the meat.
Ready to learn more about managing food waste in Westminster? Download our food waste guide today.
How do you dispose of food waste?
With Commercial Waste Services, your food waste can be collected via a dedicated food waste collection service. For hygiene reasons, food waste has to be stored and collected in bins, which we have available for you in a variety of shapes and sizes. When left on the street in bags, food waste can attract vermin and rodents and can also lead to leaks, bad smells, and staining on the pavement in front of your business. Food waste is the main cause of contamination in other recycling streams, so it is important to make sure it is properly segregated into your designated food waste bin.
More specifically when it comes to animal by-products (ABP) and catering waste, there are different regulations to consider. Click on the button below to read our guide and find out how your business can manage and dispose of ABP waste responsibly, ensuring it will not pose a risk to food safety and hygiene.