Kitchen waste crisis gives industry food for thought

Food waste recycling

When a string of foodservice and restaurant chains from the public and private sector united to sign the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, it signalled the industry’s collective intent to reduce kitchen waste through better procurement and operating behaviour. A year on, FEJ hears how the gains are starting to be felt on the bottom line.

One figure stood out more than any other when the first full-year report on the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement (HaFSA) was published just recently by WRAP: the £10m worth of savings that the original signatories have made from reducing food waste.

It is the clearest sign yet that joint efforts to curb spiralling food waste costs are actually working and as more operators increase their investment on food waste equipment there is a clear benchmark to aim for. From Subway and McDonald’s to Spirit Pub Company and Strathmore Hotels, operators of multi-site foodservice properties are paying greater attention to dealing with food waste management.

The progress made against the waste prevention target over the past 12 months shows a reduction in CO2e associated with food and packaging waste of 2.5%, against the overall target of a 5% decrease by the end of 2015.

The statistics highlight a commitment from the foodservice sector to reduce waste, with the focus on prevention delivering the additional benefit of increasing the amount of surplus food being sent for redistribution by 23%.

Meanwhile, the rate of recycling for both food and packaging waste increased by seven percentage points against the 2012 baseline, with the overall recycling rate reaching 54%. The target is to increase food and packaging waste recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted to at least 70% by the end of 2015, and that certainly looks achievable.

A key part of the progress delivered so far has been the monitoring and measuring of waste. Once a company starts to measure the amount of food waste that is being produced within a business and assigns a cost to it, it generally acts as a wake-up call to take action. Consequently, the focus on creating a firm strategy to deal with the problem is enhanced.

Dr Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at WRAP, says he is delighted by the enthusiasm with which the agreement has been embraced and acted upon by the industry.

“With these results, we have seen the first indication of the positive impact the hard work undertaken by signatories and supporters is having towards the collective HaFSA ambitions.

“There’s no doubt that a lot of work still needs to be done to build upon this positive start, but HaFSA is helping to bring the right people together to deliver solutions. Actions — whether collective or individual — make business sense and save money,” he concludes.

The Hospitality and Food Service agreement explained

The Hospitality and Food Service Agreement is a voluntary agreement to support the sector in reducing waste and recycling more. Research by WRAP indicates that more than 1.3 billion meals are wasted annually in the UK’s hospitality and food service sector.

The agreement is flexible to allow any size of organisation to sign up, from multi-national companies to smaller businesses, and from sector wholesalers and distributors to trade bodies. There are different ways of signing up depending on the size of business.

WRAP has worked closely with interested and relevant organisations and individuals to determine the targets for the agreement. The targets will be owned by WRAP and collectively delivered by signatories, according to the organisation. WRAP says it will deliver the agreement across the UK through its national programmes, including Zero Waste Scotland.

Prevention target: To reduce food and associated packaging waste arising by 5% by the end of 2015. This will be against a 2012 baseline and be measured by CO2e emissions.

Waste management target: To increase the overall rate of food and packaging waste being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion (AD) or composted to at least 70% by the end of 2015.

Facing facts

•    The amount of food that is wasted each year in the UK is equivalent to 1.3 billion meals, or one in six of the eight billion meals served each year.

•    On average 21% of food waste arises from spoilage; 45% from food preparation; and 34% from consumer plates.

•    A total of 3,415,000 tonnes of waste is disposed of in the UK food sector every year, of which some 1,473,000 tonnes are sent for disposal.

•    Some 600,000 tonnes (41%) of the waste from pubs, restaurants, hotels and quick service restaurants is food waste.

•    The food sector produces 0.4 million tonnes of avoidable food waste per annum. A further 0.2 million tonnes of unavoidable food waste is produced every year.

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