From plastic to potatoes, there are several ways to change habits and processes in the industry to promote less waste.
There is no denying the hospitality industry is in need of support. After over a year of uncertainty, the lifting of restrictions is a welcome update for local businesses across America. Safety visiting your favorite restaurants, cafes, and pubs is a great way to support the local, and larger, economy.
The hospitality industry is a repeat offender in terms of food waste. From single-use plastic, in the form of disposable cutlery and food packaging, to uneaten or unused food, businesses and consumers both contribute to waste in this industry. Restaurants alone contribute almost 200,000 tonnes of food waste each year. Meanwhile, 1 in 10 Americans are struggling to afford enough food amid the pandemic.
This article will explore ways that the hospitality industry can tackle waste. From plastic to potatoes, there are several ways to change habits and processes in the industry to promote less waste. Using compostable takeaway packaging and wooden cutler, and properly managing commercial and catering food waste or donating to local food banks can improve the wasteful impact on the environment and the economy.
Reducing single-use plastic
Single-use plastic can be challenging to avoid, especially with pre-prepared and packaged ‘grab-and-go’ or delivered food. However, there is an increasing number of alternatives to consider. Opting for plastic that is made from recycled plastic, that is also fully recyclable continues the life cycle of the resource.
Similarly, plant-based compostable plastics are entering the mass market, like Vegware. Sustainable packaging is not only great for businesses to reduce their plastic, but also it appeals to conscious consumers. Vegware’s Senior Waste Management Consultant, Eilidh Brunton, states that their packaging “meets the desire of diners for an environmentally sustainable solution to disposable waste” while it also holds the “deepest set of compostability certifications in the sector.”
Ensuring that packaging is clearly marked with how and where to recycle foodservice packaging will ensure that customers know how to correctly dispose of packaging.
Recycling Made Easy
Food waste in recycling bins contaminates the entire load, which can lead it to be classed as general waste. This is not only more expensive to dispose of, but it is also less sustainable. Clear recycling instructions, for staff in restaurants, and for customers, can reduce contamination between materials that can and cannot be recycled.
For example, cardboard pizza boxes cannot be recycled if they have oil residue and grease on them. This section must be separated into general waste. Most takeaway coffee cups contain a thin, plastic coating inside to prevent leaking. This is hard to separate from the paper cup, and therefore most coffee cups end up in general rubbish.
Clarification surrounding recyclable materials and recycling practice can lead to increased awareness, and therefore great uptake. Recycling correctly contributes to a green economy and extends the life of materials.
What can restaurants do with leftover food?
In some cases, food waste can be unavoidable. From food left on a customer's plate, to unsold but already made food, food establishments sometimes encounter leftover food. Rather than putting this straight into general waste, there are more sustainable ways to manage leftover food and save them from food waste.
Donate to local food banks
Unopened food can usually be donated to local food banks in the local area. Redistributing food waste will provide families and those facing food poverty substantial meals. From one-off donations to regular contributions, Trussell Trust provides a service to help individuals and businesses find their closest foodbank.
This is happening on a global scare, My Yard is a UK charity, who set up a food hub in North West London, received support from a local supermarket, City Harvest and North London Food Bank Aid. Encouraging businesses and branches of chain stores to donate to local charity communities will contribute to decreasing food waste while also tackling food poverty.
Resell unsold food via apps like Too Good To Go
Environmentally, food waste accounts for more than 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Innovative apps, like Too Good To Go, enable the food industry to sell leftover food at a discounted rate. Customers get a tasty deal while restaurants and cafes save food from the bin, while still earning some money. The Certified B Corporation arrived in the US in late 2020, and US users have saved more than 300,000 meals in just under a year.
Although the food industry can be wasteful, it is important for local businesses and the national economy to support the sector. Although 26 percent of food waste is unavoidable, reassessing what the hospitality industry does with unsold food, how things are packaged and further education around recycling can drastically improve waste across the industry.
Ashley Harris started her career in hospitality over 10 years ago and has a degree in Global Masters in Management. She is passionate about innovations in the hospitality and food sector and is looking to connect with other professionals in the industry. Follow her on Twitter: @Ashley_Harris91