Waste not want not in this world

Food Waste is the new global warming, at this juncture so much excess food exist that it is no longer an asset but a hindrance. Anyone with a soupçon of conscience will be aware that there are still people going hungry even in the West. The motto of the world at the beginning of the 20th century was ‘’Waste Not Want Not’’. After, the Great Depression in the US, and twenty years later the Great War in Europe, having any spare food was a luxury. Rationing, recycling and the mending of garments was not something to be showcased on Instagram, these actions were the happenings of daily life.

There is a crisis going on in the world, and no one seems concerned about it. We have become the most prosperous civilisation ever known. Since, the late 1970’s a perfect storm of industrialisation within all parts of Asia alongside a late twentieth century boom of technological advancements in the West, has created an event that has never occurred in written history. We have an excess of food, this may sound ideal but in real terms this intercontinental success has created a new monster.

When we crunch the numbers, in 2013 the UK yearly estimate by weight, household food waste makes up 70% of the UK post-farm-gate total, manufacturing 17%, hospitality and food service 9% and retail 2%. In addition to food ending up as waste, 710,000 tonnes of food surplus from manufacturing and retail is either being redistributed via charitable and commercial routes (47,000 tonnes in 2015) or being diverted to produce animal feed (660,000 tonnes in 2015). Both are classed as waste prevention according to food material hierarchy There are also 2.2 million tonnes of food by-products from food manufacturing used as animal feed, and up to another 2 million tonnes of animal by-products sent to rendering plants. 

In 2017 the UK government found that for every £1 restaurants invested to cut down on food waste, they saved on average £7 in operating costs over a three-year period. That’s a 600% return on investment. The financial benefits came from a range of things such as reduced expenses from saving money on the food they buy, extra sales from using food which would have been thrown away during preparation in other meals, and lower waste management costs.

What’s more, on average restaurants achieved a 26% reduction in food waste in just one year which leapt up to nearly 90% within two years. And all sites were able to keep their total investment in food reduction below £20,000 over the three-year period.

The results echo findings from other work we have done over the last year looking at the food and drinks industry. The previous two reports focused on the hotel and catering sectors. A compelling and consistent trend has unveiled itself– impressive returns from simple and relatively cheap measures to tackle food waste, whether that’s in the hotel, catering, or restaurant sector.Together they build a powerful counter-argument to what we sometimes hear from businesses that food waste has to be accepted as ‘the cost of doing business’ or not considered worth the investment.

So how did the restaurants achieve such impressive results?

Through straightforward measures like conducting food waste inventories, training staff on new food handling and storage procedures, and redesigning menus to eliminate food waste or significantly reduce it.

What causes food waste on such a massive scale. The adage, the more you have the less you care comes into play. With unlimited access to food from all over the world, the desire to conserve and preserve diminishes with every passing generation. In the past, parents taught their progeny to save fats, use every cut of meat and even to cut out the bad sections of fruits and vegetables, these practices fell out of fashion half a century ago. The main culprit of food waste besides a lack of tutorage is the infamous USE BY DATE. Introduced in 1962 to the UK, the USE BY DATE from its inception has confused consumers and was only ever meant to be a guide, and not a tenant of consumption. The introduction of preservation plastics that festoon every product from punnets to single serving fruit. What are the solutions to this ongoing problem? One that will only get larger as the population expands, as new sources of food are found, and resources possibly dwindle.

Enterprise Waste Management will help you move reduce, re-use and recycle more of your resources, giving you both a healthier environmental and economic performance. If you’re interested in booking a free environmental audit of your business, then get in touch and see what we can do to help you.

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