Ways to deal with food waste in hospitality

Waste, and its damage to the planet, has a huge amount of media attention at the moment. From plastic in our oceans, to fashion labels burning unsold clothes, the public’s patience is growing thin when it comes to displays of poor waste management. One particularly wasteful area is that of food waste – in a time of food banks and homelessness on the rise, the idea of perfectly usable food heading to the landfill is unacceptable.

Research from Wrap reveals that the hospitality industry creates a combined total of over 2 million tonnes of waste every year in the UK. Across the sector, the main contributors are:

  • Restaurants — produce 915,400 tonnes of waste each year, including 199,100 tonnes of food waste (22% 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).
  • Hotels — produce 289,700 tonne of waste each year, including 79,000 tonnes of food waste (9% 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%).

It isn’t an issue exclusive to Britain either. The National reported on the issue of food waste in Dubai, with the problem being particularly fuelled by hotels and restaurants wasting ingredients on over-the-top portions.

In Egypt, Al-Monitor reported on the inadequate stock storage available to large supermarkets there, which leads to 20% wastage on their produce. The news outlet also reported that, like in Dubai, the issue of food wastage from hotels and restaurants is also particularly problematic in Egypt. 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.

How is the problem being tackled by the sector? We asked leading skip hire and waste management experts Reconomy, to investigate the various processes that are being implemented throughout the hospitality sector to tackle waste heading to the landfill.

Refuse or reuse?

FareShare, a food redistribution charity, has teamed up with popular UK pub chain JD Wetherspoons. SHD Logistics reported on the matter, saying that the food donated by the pub chain is surplus after a recent menu shake-up, or food that has had its outer cases damaged. While not problematic for the food itself, it isn’t cost-effective to make it commercial-viable again.

The idea of reusing food is quickly gaining popularity. 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 ingredient 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, which everyone could, if this usable food doesn’t go to landfill.

Sharehouses have also been created by Real Junk Food to place additional stock that people are free to pick and take home. Again, customers pay nothing or something, money or time.

The Pay As You Feel idea is also popping up across the world. Over 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 would only have gone to waste otherwise and is better used to help 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.

Make your own food!

Local produce is always a great selling point to customers, but you can make your ingredients even more “local”. 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 and spa has its own garden, which it uses as a source of fresh produce. The garden is tended to without synthetic chemicals and is fed with recycled water. Any hotel or restaurant with the capacity to do so should look into planting a garden for its kitchen use, even if it is just a small herb garden – any small change can reduce the need potentially over-purchase from a supplier.

Six Senses also considers its use of water. They bottle still and sparkling water in reusable glass bottles, but that’s not the half of it. The company actually treats, purifies, and mineralises its own water!

Other sources of waste in hospitality

There’s more than just food waste to be considered too. BRITA UK conducted a study, titled The Planet Around You: How Hospitality Businesses Are Addressing The Sustainability Challenge. In the publication, it was noted that 70% of businesses are currently 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.

Of the matter of refillable water bottle stations, Martha Wardrop, Green councillor, commented to the Evening Times:

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

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

Also, 40% of hospitality businesses have said that they want to know more about being sustainable, according to BRITA UK’s study. If you are one of these businesses, reach out to Reconomy for advice. 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?