Tackling food waste in the hospitality sector
Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, discusses the hospitality sector’s escalating food waste challenge and explains why embracing a sustainable approach to waste management can deliver both financial and environmental benefits.
While the past 18 months have been challenging, fractious and uncertain for UK PLC, the hospitality sector has been hit harder than most. When the pandemic arrived, more than 1.6m employees were immediately plunged into furlough, with the loss of revenue costing the industry billions. In the months since, countless brands – both big and small – have been forced to cease trading, while thousands of staff have lost their jobs.
It’s heart-breaking to see such a thriving industry brought almost to its knees, especially by a scenario that no-one could have foreseen, but the passion, determination and resilience shown in the face of adversity have been truly inspirational. What’s more, while the pandemic isn’t over, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Returning to normality will take time, but the signs are looking positive. In the meantime, it’s a case of tightly managing overheads, planning for change, expecting the unexpected and avoiding unnecessary costs wherever possible. It may therefore shock you to find out one of the highest costs, yet most overlooked areas, for almost every hospitality business – is food waste.
The growing cost of wasted food
Stats from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) highlight that the hospitality sector throws away more than one million tonnes of food waste every year – 40% of which is said to be avoidable. From offcuts and peelings, to garnishes, plate scrapings and spoiled produce, it comes at a total cost of £3 billion.
But it’s not just the financial cost of food waste that makes for concerning reading. Indeed, the environmental impact is, if anything, even more troubling. Food waste left to rot in landfill creates greenhouse gases considered 21 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 – yet another challenge for a sector bound by sustainability and decarbonisation targets.
Minimising waste, maximising profit
While the picture may seem gloomy, food waste is nothing new to the hospitality sector and there are numerous ways to tackle the issue head-on.
From improving stock control and using leftovers, to simplifying menu choices, forgoing garnishes and streamlining portion sizes, a few simple changes can have a significant commercial impact without damaging the dining experience.
Yet while managing avoidable waste is one thing, it’s important to remember the unavoidable fraction generated in commercial kitchens – bones, gristle, shells and spoiled produce.
While many see this as a necessary evil of food preparation, it’s important to remember the environmental consequences of relying on landfill.
Fortunately there’s a simple solution here too – food waste recycling.
Delivered on an industrial scale, food waste recycling harnesses the anaerobic digestion (AD) process to capture the biogas released during the natural degradation of food.
This gas can either be combusted to generate renewable electricity or upgraded and injected directly into the gas grid.
Nothing goes to waste during the process.
Even the resulting digestate can be used as a sustainable liquid biofertiliser by farmers.
All in all, a highly sustainable option for hospitality businesses to consider!
The environmental benefits are clear, but what about the financial impact?
Surely ‘going green’ is expensive and time consuming?
Well, with no costly landfill tax to pay, hospitality businesses can expect to save c.50% on waste management costs by implementing food waste recycling services.
What’s more, the whole process is quick and simple to integrate – it’s a win-win situation!
As the UK’s leading food waste recycler, ReFood operates three state-of-the-art anaerobic digestion (AD) sites in the UK.
Collecting and processing more than 400,000 tonnes of food waste every year, we help hospitality businesses nationwide to cut costs, go green and minimise their reliance on landfill.
While electricity and gas generated at our facilities helps to further reduce national reliance on fossil fuels, we also produce a sustainable biofertiliser – ReGrow – which is used by local farmers as an alternative to chemical fertilisers.
With recycled food used to grow tomorrow’s crops, we essentially close the food supply chain – a simple and circular solution!
So, with overheads pinching and improving sustainability credentials an essential consideration for every business, I’d implore any hospitality business that isn’t already doing so to consider recycling their food waste – the benefits are countless.
It’s greener, safer and, most importantly, cheaper!