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Tackling FM food waste provides major sustainability benefits

06 May 2022

There has been growing awareness of the high volumes of food that are wasted around the UK, which have proved shocking to many when the amount of wastage is explained due to factors including the difficulties reported by many both in the UK and around the world in feeding their families.

While this could be used to emphasise the worrying divisions within society, from those who have very little through to the other end of the spectrum where little or no thought is given to the abundance of choice and supply enjoyed, the fact that more attention is being devoted to the topic of food waste is resulting in more actions to address the issue.

Further thoughts on this are shared by industry experts, the first of which is provided by Elior UK had of CSR Charlotte Wright and refers to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) report that says around £3bn worth of food is wasted annually across the UK hospitality and foodservice sector.

“It is therefore critical that rapid action is taken to change this,” she continues.

“To reach our target of reducing food waste by an average of 25% across the business by 2025, we have identified a number of factors to help us achieve this.”

Education and training are key as they drive behaviour change, helping everyone to understand the issue and how they can play a part in reducing food waste. Training – such as WRAP’s ‘Guardians of Grub’ platform – helps to inform individuals on what and why action needs to be taken, she continues.

Redistribution of surplus food has the dual advantage of not only reducing food waste but, in many instances, providing food to those in need. There are many organisations, such as FareShare or OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes Programme, which can help foodservice providers of all sizes redistribute unused food.

“The adoption of food waste technology – such as Chefs Eye – enables chefs and caterers to weigh, report and analyse food waste data and then to identify trends. By tracking waste in real time, foodservice providers can implement changes which reduce food waste based on factual data rather than anecdotal evidence.

“Other initiatives, such as the development and sharing of recipes which incorporate surplus food and using re-usable food containers – such as Caulibox – so that food can be kept fresh longer are easy to adopt and help to reduce waste. “We must set targets and then all work together to take action, change habits and make a difference,” says Ms Wright.

Sodexo UK & Ireland CR director Claire Atkins Morris describes food waste as “an indefensible issue in light of the climate crisis.

“Our research has shown that just 26% of food procurement professionals prioritise food waste as a means to achieving carbon reduction. Given the size of the FM sector combined with long value chains we have the responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference.”

Businesses in the food service sector will not achieve carbon net zero goals without urgently turning their attention to the issue of food waste, Ms Atkins Morris continues. She agrees with Ms Wright that understanding what is thrown away, and why, in real-time enables catering teams to identify efficiencies and make informed choices about menus and operating procedures, which helps drive behavioural change in the kitchen.

Using technology to track and monitor food waste provides real time data and helps reduce the impact food services have on the environment. Ms Atkins Morris further explains that since deploying WasteWatch technology, her colleagues have prevented 280 tonnes of food waste, the equivalent of 500,000 meals, and reduced clients’ carbon emissions by 2,000 metric tonnes.

“Food service providers have their commitments in this area but we need to do more and urge client organisations to commit to a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030 at the latest. The benefits are clear to see, reducing food waste will cut carbon emissions, cut food costs and have a positive wider impact on the food system, land use and food insecurity.

“We can’t do this alone we need to galvanise and convene UK industry and political stakeholders to drive change in this area,” Ms Atkins Morris concludes.

The final comment on this topic is provided by Green Eco Technologies UK commercial director Katie Young, who states that food and agriculture are vital to achieving the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.

“Food waste plays a key part in this, with 1.3bn tonnes of food wasted globally each year and, in the UK, 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and consumption of our food and drink. WRAP have set out a pathway to deliver a 50% reduction in the GHG footprint of UK food and drink by 2030.”

To achieve these goals, the FM sector must play their part, she continues. Measuring food waste and understanding how it occurs is essential for making improvements.

Once identified and monitored, edible food can be reused or redistributed to charities, and inedible food waste can be reduced.

“Food waste measurement can highlight over ordering or opportunities for menu changes, both offering potential for cost reduction. Technology is also allowing organisations to improve their sustainable practices and move away from outdated disposal methods such as landfill or waste to water which both have harmful impacts on the environment.

“Innovation in food waste technology has advanced significantly in recent years and now allows food waste to be reduced onsite by up to 80% to an inert, odourless residue, reducing truck collections and improving carbon footprints. This reduced volume residue can be taken to local anaerobic digestion plants to be repurposed for energy.

“Good practices in food waste segregation, measurement and management can be beneficial financially, to our society, environmentally and ultimately to our climate,” says Ms Young.

It is particularly interesting to see the extensive efforts being devoted to the issue of reducing food waste by some service providers, a relevant example of which is provided by Sodexo UK & Ireland. In addition to research conducted with senior procurement professionals within both public and private sector businesses, alluded to by Ms Atkins Morris in her comment, the company also staged a roundtable discussion and published its Appetite for Action report.

This features a number of highly useful sections share the results of the company’s considerable efforts, along with recommendations for the framework policies that will help to further raise awareness and provide yet more support to educate the public and business sector on the actions necessary to continue to reduce food waste.

Our final comment is provided by Compass Group UK Business & Industry culinary director Ryan Holmes says: “We’ve set ourselves a target to halve food waste by 2030.

"Every Monday all unit managers are required to report on food waste for each unit. By analysing past wastage, we have been able to re-balance our menus and, so far, have seen a 38% reduction in food waste for Eurest alone over 18 months.”

He describes further initiatives, including menus designed around by-products and ingredients that are usually destined to end up as waste, along with using as much as possible of the whole product to invent flavoursome dishes or sauces, saving money and adding extra nutritional value – for example, blending veg trimmings to make a curry sauce.

The company has also introduced new smoothie options that use bruised, over-ripe or leftover fruit, which are packed into individually frozen smoothie pouches to avoid additional waste.

“Our sustainable ethos extends to the partnerships that we have, too. When selecting suppliers, the most important consideration is that they align with our brand philosophy and objectives,” says Mr Holmes.

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