Food waste is an expensive issue, costing UK hospitality and food businesses alone around £2.5 billion per year. Wasting food is not just a cost-management problem: it also has a significant environmental impact. For example, the water used to produce the world’s wasted food each year would be enough for 9 billion people.
Stop Food Waste Day (28 April) aims to tackle this issue by helping to halve food waste by 2030. Read on to find out what your business can do to prevent food waste, and to make your food recycling and waste management more cost-effective and efficient.
Why is food waste a big problem?
Food waste and food loss are terms for any food that is wasted, lost or uneaten. This includes all stages of the food supply chain – from production and processing to retail, storage, preparation and consumption.
Roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted, with a value of around £750 billion (enough food to feed 3 billion people). For individual businesses, the data is equally frightening: in the UK food sector, one-third of food waste is due to uneaten food. For restaurants, that means £682 million wasted; for pubs it is £318 million.
The UN states that removal of edible food from the food supply chain is “mainly caused by economic behaviour, poor stock management or neglect”. Poor storage, over-purchasing and lack of planning (e.g. using up fresher food first while other food spoils) are all habits that could be hurting your bottom line, as well as contributing to climate change.
The aim of Stop Food Waste Day is to educate the public and ignite change, including aligning with the UN Sustainable Development goal to dramatically reduce food waste. With this – and the inevitable cost savings in mind – what will you do to prevent food waste?
How to prevent food waste
The hospitality and food service sector (restaurants, pubs, takeaways, canteens and hotels) is one of the biggest generators of food waste. It is also worth looking at the breakdown of where this sector’s waste occurs: according to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), 21% is from food spoilage, 45% from preparation and 34% is uneaten.
In order to address these key areas, here are some simple measures you can take. (Although these tips will be helpful for food businesses, they could also apply to home cooking too.)
1. Keep track
Monitor what food you have bought and when it needs to be used.
Plan how you will use up the food in your stores, for example, a daily special recipe that includes those ingredients. Planning ahead will also help you avoid over-buying food stocks you will not be able to use up.
Improve your storage systems, e.g. store fresher food at the back of the fridge or cupboard. Food that needs to be used up will be more visible and accessible.
4. Portion sizes
It is well worth reviewing your portion sizes if you are seeing lots of leftovers. Alternatively, offer customers a choice (e.g. a lunch-sized portion or a dinner-sized option).
Be aware of how much ends up in the bin when you prepare food, from peeling vegetables to carving meat. Simply buying sharper (or specialist) knives could help you waste less.
Watch our infographic below to find out what happens to your food waste.
There are more tips for avoiding food waste and improving food waste management below:
- Food waste: what you need to know
- Handling Animal By-Products and Food Waste in Westminster Guide
- Download our free food waste guide
- Back to work: The ultimate guide to resuming business operations
- Read a case study: how we worked with AOK Kitchen in Marylebone to supply environmentally friendly waste management solutions.
How can businesses dispose of food waste?
Food waste that can be recycled includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, fruit/vegetables, bread, flowers, coffee grounds and tea bags.
Do remember, some coffee pods and plastic tea bags cannot be composted and so should be discarded through general waste. However, you should always check with your coffee pod company to see if they have a take back scheme – you can read more about a recent initiative here.
Even a non-food related business will produce a surprising amount of food waste. Try adding up the amount of tea bags your team gets through in a week, and then multiply that by the number of working days, for an idea of how much! Lunchtime leftovers (or waste from catering for events or meetings) and discarded food shopping are other examples of regular food waste from non-food businesses.
For hotels, restaurants, caterers and other businesses who produce meals throughout the week, that will obviously be an even higher volume. That means it is really important to consider how your food waste will be dealt with.
Food waste disposal has to be compliant with requirements such as the Animal By-Product Regulations. These have made it a legal requirement to keep raw meat, fish and poultry waste separate when they are thrown away. The regulations also stipulate that food waste must not be presented in bags on the street. (As part of our food waste service, we supply the bins and liners you will need instead.) Read more about disposing of animal by-products here.
You can also help the waste management process (and the environment) by ensuring you keep food waste separate from other waste types. This avoids contamination that would spoil the rest of a recycling load and it means recycling and waste management can happen efficiently. What is more, keeping food waste separate means you will save money on your waste collection costs. Having food waste collected separately will also become compulsory under the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.
To find out how Westminster Commercial Waste Services can help, watch our video and meet Adem…
Business food waste recycling in Westminster
At Commercial Waste Services, we offer a specialist food waste collection service. We can help businesses of any size and our collection times are tailored to meet a schedule that suits you. The service is compliant with Animal By-Product regulations and will also help you satisfy responsibilities under the Resources and Waste Strategy. Find out more about our service.
We were recently recognised for our outstanding Food Waste Recycling when we won the “Waste Performance of the Year” award at the Keep Britain Tidy Awards 2021. With the support of Veolia, we collected more than 345 tonnes of food waste that would otherwise have been thrown away.
All food waste is sent for processing at a plant in Hertfordshire where it is used to produce biogas, which can be used to generate heat and electricity, and biofertilizer, which is used on farmland.
Watch this short video to hear Councillor Caplan talk about our award winning food waste service which is available for businesses in Westminster:
We are also committed to protecting the environment in other ways. First, waste is collected by our industry-leading and award winning electric collect vehicle fleet. (Converting just one one waste collection vehicle to electric is the equivalent of taking 30 diesel cars off the street.) 98% of the waste we collect from businesses is treated locally, rather than being transported long distances; this minimises vehicle movements and helps to cut exhaust emissions and congestion. The food waste we collect from your business is used to produce renewable energy and fertilizer. Learn more about how Commercial Waste Services recycles food waste here.
If you need help with food waste management and recycling, get in touch. If you would like to read more about our food waste collection service, download the leaflet by clicking on the image below.