The plastic in our oceans has shocked the world, with more and more people waking up to the true extent of the impact our past waste habits have had. Now, every sector is under scrutiny: do we need to use plastic straws? Do vegetables need shrink-wrapped packaging? Can we reuse food destined for the bin?
According to Wrap, more than 2 million tonnes of waste is produced annually by the food and hospitality sectors in the UK:
- Hotels — produce 289,700 tonne of waste each year, including 79,000 tonnes of food waste (9% 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).
- Restaurants — produce 915,400 tonnes of waste each year, including 199,100 tonnes of food waste (22% 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%).
The issue isn’t unique to the UK 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.
Al-Monitor reported on the Egypt’s bigger supermarket chains, who are wasting 20% of their produce because they lack the correct storage capabilities. 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.
What can be done to address the problem? 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.
JD Wetherspoons has joined up with FareShare in order to put its waste food to better use. 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.
Food reusing is gaining popularity as a means to keep it off our landfills. 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.
The project has flourished to the point that they now have sharehouses for people to help themselves to surplus stock to use at home. Again, customers pay nothing or something, money or time.
The idea of Pay As You Feel has grown across the world too. 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.
Relying less on others
Customers respond well to local produce and supporting the local community, so the hospitality industry can certainly benefit from this. 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 has its own garden to supply the kitchen with fresh ingredients. 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.
They even have their own still and sparkling water in reusable glass bottles. Plus, the company actually treats, purifies, and mineralises its own water!
Consider plastic waste
A study titled The Planet Around You: How Hospitality Businesses Are Addressing The Sustainability Challenge was conducted by BRITA UK. 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.
Refillable water bottle stations should be supported more, according to Green councillor Martha Wardrop. Speaking to the Evening Times, she said:
“[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.
The plastic problem goes further than just bottles though. 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.
Are there plastic-free alternatives that could be used in your own firm?
The report concluded that over 40% of hospitality companies want more advice to become more sustainable. 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?