How can businesses reduce food waste?

Tomatoes, mushrooms, chillies, peppers and garlic.

The benefits of reducing food waste for UK businesses go beyond sustainability alone. According to Keenan Recycling, which conducted a study of 200 UK businesses, almost half of British organisations (46%) are looking at food waste recycling.

The report also revealed that:

  • 33% of businesses want to reduce food waste
  • 19% worry about food loss more than plastic and cardboard
  • The top priority for businesses is food waste reduction

The benefits of reducing food waste for businesses

Food waste management isn’t just about reducing emissions. It’s also a legal obligation under The Environment Act 2021. The Act aims to eliminate all surplus food from landfill by 2030. As a result, UK businesses across the private and public sectors (and notably, not just the food service sector) will have to adhere to these rules:

  1. Organisations must send leftover food as a separate waste stream from others – either for composting or anaerobic digestion.
  2. Businesses will no longer be allowed to send digested or macerated food to sewers.
  3. Managers must separate food products from other waste such as paper or plastic.

Businesses could face fines of up to £250,000 if they don’t comply with this legislation. Download the full details of the Act in our resources area.

The business case for reducing food loss and waste

Aside from avoiding fines, there is a huge business case for reducing excess food and waste. One is to avoid landfill fees, which are calculated according to weight. Some 9.5 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year, so there are huge savings available. Likewise, many organisations are looking to follow the lead of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This will improve their reputation and may put them at a competitive advantage. According to EcoVadis, socially responsible businesses are more profitable.

How can businesses reduce food waste?

One of the best ways to reduce food waste for businesses is to look at the Waste Hierarchy. Many large organisations could benefit from these principles to save costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Waste Hierarchy seeks to minimise the environmental impact of general waste. It shows us how to reduce food waste globally by ranking waste management approaches according to preference: 

  1. Wastage prevention
  2. Food waste recycling
  3. Recovery of energy
  4. Disposal through landfill or sewers
WRAP's food and drink material hierarchy
Credit source httpspublicationsparliamentukpacm201617cmselectcmenvfru42942905html

Ideally, UK businesses should focus on prevention. By cutting down on the amount of food waste, we can save costs and lessen the need for steps two through four.

Of course, while we can produce less food, we also have to acknowledge that spoilage is inevitable. Some food waste is unavoidable, and hence we see business and facilities managers going for recycling rather than stopping it altogether. 

As seen in the diagram, this takes us from the green ‘prevention’ section into the orange ‘waste’ section. The clear gap between the green and orange sections marks the point that food becomes waste. The reason? It’s shipped off to be dealt with by a third party.

How to reduce food waste with a change of mindset

By changing the way food surplus is viewed, organisations, and facilities management teams, can stop ‘waste’ being created, bridging the gap in the Waste Hierarchy. By converting it into compost at the source where it is generated, it never actually becomes a ‘waste’ at all, rather a valuable ‘resource’. We like to think of it as adding a new section to the hierarchy: on-site management of materials.

How on-site industrial composting works

On-site industrial composting is a closed-loop model that fosters environmental and financial sustainability. It’s ideal because it reduces off-site transportation costs. Additionally, food waste no longer appears in ‘waste summary’ charts from third-party waste management partners. 

Tidy Planet has had great success in helping organisations to adopt such a model. This goes beyond food businesses alone, such as pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.  The pharmaceutical giant required a circular solution for its 24 tonnes of annual food and green waste generated at its 100-acre manufacturing site. We installed the Rocket Composter, reducing off-site costs and carbon emissions. Plus, the horticultural team uses the resulting compost across AstraZeneca’s campus. 

Ultimately, through knowing what’s possible with on-site composting and changing the way food ‘waste’ is managed and perceived, it’s possible for businesses to take swift and meaningful action to reduce their environmental impact and increase their bottom-line benefits.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you minimise waste, contact our friendly team. Alternatively, read more about our work within the corporate and FM sector.