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Food waste: dealing with it as a business

Food waste in the UK has been in vogue since an agreement was made in 2012 for businesses to help lower the amount of food being thrown out on a daily basis. It was a positive step, but it does still seem like business food waste is taken nowhere near as seriously as household food waste. Plenty more can be done, and we’ll go into those solutions below!

Why is food waste such a problem?

Making food takes a huge amount of resources. The food industry runs through labour, land, water, energy, manufacturing, packaging, and more, and it runs through a lot of all of the above. To throw away food means throwing away everything that was put into its development.

Food waste also happens to make up 19% of all landfill space. It differs to other waste, because it rots over time, which releases harmful gases into the earth’s atmosphere. There are approximately 15 million tonnes of food waste produced each year in the UK, so these numbers should be reduced sooner rather than later. It does help to know the food waste hierarchy, however, which we’ll go into below:

The food waste hierarchy

To manage food waste more appropriately, the food waste hierarchy is extremely helpful, as it sheds some light on how to prioritise certain things. It’s a government-approved system, which is recommended for any business to follow, and is accompanied with a short duty of care document, explaining a business’s responsibilities with waste. Here is the hierarchy:

Prevention – The most proactive and effective way to deal with food waste is to try and create less in the first place. Something as simple as just buying the right amount of food will (not surprisingly) leave you with less food waste. Purchase what you’re sure to eat if you don’t want to throw out uneaten food.

Reuse – The next best thing is to try and find another use for it. Vegetables are excellent options for use in composting for example, if your workplace has the potential to grow food. Meat can’t be reused of course, but bones can be reused in stock/broth for employees to make at home. Citrus fruit peels can also come in handy as a natural air freshener, or even to clean.  Another good idea would to be set up a partnership with a food bank or a shelter, where you can safely give your food to the less fortunate.

Creativity is key here, if you can think of a way to use it, it’ll be used!

Recycling – Food packaging is recyclable (as long as you’ve taken all the food off it!), but food sadly isn’t. Because of this, sometimes an alternate form of recycling is required. Anaerobic digestion is the best example of that we have right now. It uses the gases released when the food rots for energy, by placing them in an area where there’s no oxygen. By doing this, it creates biogases, which are a valid energy source, and it even leaves fertiliser behind!

Other recovery – This is the first one you definitely don’t want to do unless forced, as it’s bad for the planet. It is still marginally better than disposing the food rot in a landfill, and can be used as a heat source. It’s not the worst-case scenario, but you should definitely try every method before it first.

Disposal – Simply put, this is the worst-case scenario we mentioned before. Only do this as a last resort.

Dealing with food waste

Depending on the type of job you have, there are many different avenues you can take to reduce food waste. The key is to teach everyone in the workplace about the negative effects of it, and give them the resources to help them deal with it. Finding a waste collection company is also important, especially one with the correct certification and one who is on the same page when it comes to minimising damage to the planet.

The first step to get all your food waste under control is to figure out the quantity of food waste you’re making right now. The most thorough way to measure this would be through a conducting a food waste audit. You can do a simple one at work by just counting the food in your bins, putting the types and quantity into a spreadsheet, and from there you can see which types of waste can be reduced.

After knowing what types of waste you produce, you can discover where it’s coming from a lot easier. For example, a shop will throw out a lot of out of date packaged food, but an office will be mostly uneaten lunches. This information can be quite useful when it comes to coming up with solutions.

Lastly, you’ll need to work out how you can deal with the waste using the food waste hierarchy. It’s quite straight-forward to do, just start at number one and see what the first viable option is.

By following all of the tips we’ve just explained, the amount of food waste coming out of your company should reduce considerably, improving your bin collection costs, and helping to not damage the environment as much.