How the hospitality sector is tackling the waste crisis

How the hospitality sector is tackling the waste crisis
In the recent years, we’ve seen countless numbers of media and new headlines addressing sustainability and waste management. Now, we’ve been made brutally aware of blanket of plastics that float in our oceans and that it out populates the number of fishes. The public are also appalled at the amount of food that we waste, when there are so many struggling to get food on their table. But how have these evolving views changed the way the hospitality industry manages its food waste?

The Global waste issues

Wrap had published data that outlined the amount of waste being produced by the UK’s food and hospitality sector. It’d detailed that the sector creates more than 2 million tonnes of waste every year.

  • Restaurants — produce 915,400 tonnes of waste each year, including 199,100 tonnes of food waste (22% total food waste from the sector).
  • 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).
  • Other hospitality sectors’ food waste contributions: quick service restaurants (8.3%), staff catering (2%), leisure (7%), services (3%), healthcare (13%) and education (13%).

This is just the UK alone, however there other struggling with this issue. 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.  Meanwhile, over in Egypt, Al-Monitor revealed that larger supermarkets in Egypt are wasting 20% of produce due to insufficient storage facilities. 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.

With this in mind, how can sector tackle the issue? We asked leading container 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.

Introduce new plates for food

Pubs and restaurants can find many ways to reuse food destined for the bin. In the UK, JD Wetherspoons recently announced that they have teamed up with FareShare, a charity dedicated to food redistribution. 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.

There has been other projects developed to help reduce the amount of food that we waste too. 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 idea has worked so well, that there have other initiatives which has broke off from the original. They have now been able to open sharehouses for people to take surplus food stocks themselves to use at home. Again, customers pay nothing or something, money or time.

The “Pay As You Feel” model has found success overseas 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.

Introducing a self-sustaining router

Current processes involved in hotels and restaurants should also be addressed, to see if they can be made more sustainable. For example, people have shown great support for using local produce where possible, and hotels and restaurants can follow suit. 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.

Hotels could make use of its little garden space to provide herbs and fresh produce for its kitchens. 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. Six Senses even deals with its own fresh water – they bottle still and sparkling water in reusable glass bottles, but that’s not the half of it. The company actually treats, purifies, and mineralises its own water!

Reducing plastic waste from Food Packing
Plastic waste is another area linked to food. BRITA UK conducted a study, titled The Planet Around You: How Hospitality Businesses Are Addressing The Sustainability Challenge. 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.

Martha Wardrop, the green councillor spoke to the Evening Times regarding the refillable water bottle station incentive:

“[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 continued to say that the cafés and pubs could contribute from their end, offering free drinking water to everyone, and not only customers, by signing up to an initiative such as Refill.

Though, the problem doesn’t end there for plastic waste bottles. 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. Take a look at some of the utensils and equipment your hospitality business uses: could you replace them with a plastic-free alternative?

In conclusion, the reports had revealed that 40% of businesses in the hospitality sector were actively seeking more advice on how to be more sustainable. 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?


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