Catering & Hospitality

According to WRAP, catering and hospitality outlets in the UK profit sector produce an estimated 600,000 tonnes of food waste per year. Of this, 400,000 tonnes could have been eaten if it had been better planned, portioned, managed, stored or prepared.18

In hospitals, prisons, schools and offices the numbers are even more significant. Over 3.4m tonnes of food waste is produced, 2m tonnes of which is avoidable. Primary and secondary schools alone generate in excess of 80,000 tonnes of food waste per year.19

Forecasting footfall, limited options for reusing un-served food, inflexible portion sizes and a desire not to run out of food can all lead to waste.

  • Barriers to addressing Catering & Hospitality waste
    1. General waste collection

      The 2011 WRAP report reveals that waste is generated in relatively small volumes and typically serviced by four-wheeled general waste bins. Paying per bin rather than by weight means that heavy bins are subsidised by lighter bins. As long as this general waste model prevails, the landfill tax will fail to divert food waste from landfill. Consequently the general waste bin itself is one of the key barriers to the uptake of food waste recycling.

    2. Diverse locations and establishments

      Collection mechanisms remain a key barrier to separate collection. Space can be an issue for hotels, restaurants and pubs, especially in urban areas, together with collection frequency and time, and concerns about odour and vermin.

      Separate collection of food waste has a number of potential benefits:

      • It allows the hospitality business to measure and reduce the amount of waste it generates.
      • It removes the biggest contaminant from the waste stream and therefore increases the availability and value of the remaining recyclables.
    3. Other factors

      Staff turnover and language barriers, concerns about hygiene associated with food waste in the kitchen, weight constraints related to moving food waste and packaging contamination in the bins, also need to be addressed.

  • Is anything changing?

    In 2012, WRAP launched the Voluntary Agreement to the Hospitality and Food Service Sector, which runs from 2012 to 2015, and aims to reduce food and associated packaging waste by 5% and increase food waste sent to AD by 70%.

    The Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum has explored the possibility of the member companies' food waste being collected separately, by collaborating on procurement of their collection services. This has already been implemented by 2013 Sustainable Restaurant of the Year, Poco in collaboration with other local restaurants.

    Unilever Food Solutions has developed a toolkit to help businesses of all sizes reduce their waste and a smartphone app called 'Wise up on Waste', to advise restaurants on how to manage food better.20

    In October 2011, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) launched the ‘Too Good to Waste’ initiative to highlight the food waste issue and encourage the use of 'doggy boxes'. Leading sustainable Mexican food chain Wahaca has reported a 20% reduction in plate scraping waste as a result.

    Food redistribution to people in need is supported by hospitality sector retailers such as Paul, which works with social enterprise Plan Zheroes, to marry surplus food producers with local charities.21

    Initiatives to use catering waste to feed animals are also gaining momentum. For example, the ‘Pig Idea’ highlights the potential benefits of feeding catering waste to pigs, although this remains a contentious issue for reasons of bio-security in the foodchain.

  • Catering & Hospitality recommendations
    • Develop solutions that separate food waste without leading to issues of hygiene in the supply of food or health and safety concerns for staff.
    • National waste bodies to conduct a review of current catering and hospitality waste contracts to assess the environmental impact of paying per bin rather than by weight.
    • Ensure that addressing food waste according to the food waste hierarchy becomes an integral part of chef training and educational initiatives.
    • Businesses to include food waste and consideration of the food waste hierarchy in all waste contract specifications.
    • Government to introduce a phased ban on food waste to landfill from 2017 for business, based on turnover and/or volume of waste generated (e.g. above 50kg of food waste per week), to give companies time to look for and adopt alternative disposal options.
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18 WRAP 2011: The composition of Waste Disposed of by the UK Hospitality Industry

19 WRAP 2011: The composition of Waste Disposed of by the UK Hospitality Industry