Recently, the world has been united in its shock of how plastic is crippling the ocean. The reaction has reverberated through waste management in general and now, the public are more conscious than ever of where their uneaten food and plastic containers are going once they're used.
Of course, the world's issue with food waste isn't a UK-exclusive problem. Over in Dubai, The National reported on the tradition of hotels and restaurants putting on over-the-top buffet displays and huge portions, much of which ends up wasted.
Plus, in Egypt, larger supermarkets are struggling with poor storage facilities which leaves 20% of produce wasted, says Al-Monitor. Like Dubai, Egyptian hotels and restaurants also have the problem of food wastage, with Egyptian Food Bank CEO Moez El Shohdi commenting how customers "have a habit of piling their plates", resulting in uneaten food being binned. Had good be left on the buffet untouched, it could be reused and recycled.
What can hospitality businesses do to address the issue? With the expertise of skip hire and waste management experts Reconomy, we explore the different tactics that are being used to reuse and recycle.
Waste not, want not
Teaming up with food redistribution charity FareShare, UK pub favourite JD Wetherspoons is taking the lead in dealing with their food waste effectively. 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 reuse is a concept that is quickly gaining pace. 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 "Pay As You Feel" concept has certainly proven popular with both customers and suppliers - so much so that the project has now opened sharehouses for extra food stock that can be accessed by everyone to take home. Again, customers pay nothing or something, money or time.
There's Pay As You Feel restaurants cropping up all over the globe! 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.
Customers love to buy local, so hotels and restaurants can benefit from sourcing local produce. 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 maintains its own garden to supply its 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.
Six Senses bottles its own fresh water in reusable glass bottles, but they go even further. The company actually treats, purifies, and mineralises its own water!
BRITA UK published a study into the issue of waste in hospitality 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, Green councillor, voiced her support of refillable water bottle stations in her comments to the Evening Times:
“[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.
But it’s more than just plasic water bottles on the list to be removed. 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 products in your own business that could be replaced with greener alternative?
According to BRITA UK, more than 40% of businesses in hospitality want more advice on how to be more environmentally friendly. 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?