As trends change and our lifestyles evolve, so has the way in which businesses deliver our products. For example, the introduction of plastic has transformed everything from clothing, catering and construction, to product design, electronics and transportation over the last 70+ years and is now causing considerable problems when it comes to recycling it.
The UK produces around 170m tonnes of waste a per year, most of which is food packaging, so you can see the need for all food and beverage companies, from manufacturers and corporations to independent restaurant and takeaway operations, to get involved and start reducing the amount of non-recyclable waste they are producing or distributing to their consumers.
Over the last 3-5 years we’ve seen some big trend changes in the hospitality sector, changes mainly based around people’s busy lifestyles and their need to save time. As a result, more people are eating and drinking on the go, we’ve seen an increase in restaurant and street food operations offering a wider selection of cuisines and the demand for delivery dining has increased dramatically with tech development surrounding companies such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, HungryHouse and UberEats. This increased level of convenience has seen an increase in food packaging and food waste as we’ve developed a throwaway culture within our society.
The UK government is slowly starting to take action; the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015 saw a reduction of around 80% of non-recyclable plastic bags. This year, MP’s are talking about the possible introduction of a ‘Latte Levy’, a charge similar to the plastic bag tax, this time aimed at reducing the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups thrown away each day in the UK.
Whilst there’s growing pressure and incentives for businesses to take responsibility to reduce waste, this should be a conversation operators are having more willingly; being mindful when making purchasing and distribution decisions, whilst implementing programmes to support the local environment and sustainable development.
Here are just a few ways the hospitality industry can make a change and help the recycling movement…
Plenty of operators; Living Ventures, JD Weatherspoon, The Liberation Group, Oakman Inns, and latest to sign up, D&D London have declared #WarOnStraws by switching out plastic straws for biodegradable products or by removing straws from their standard serve.
The UK Government is proposing to implement a 25p #LatteLevy on the purchase of non-recyclable cups in a bid to reduce purchases and/or help fund the cost of specialist recycling. Starbucks are currently researching the effects of adding 5p to the cost of cups at selected shops in London – although surely the pressure should be on the coffee shop and packaging companies to provide a fully recyclable delivery method rather than passing costs to the end consumer – which is possible, as Black Sheep Coffee’s co-founder Gabriel Shohet made clear earlier this week on Linkedin, explaining they had been using Vegware compostable cups and lids for years.
Whilst most coffee shop chains offer a 20-25p discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup, Pret A Manger’s CEO Clive Schlee announced they would be significantly increasing discount for customers using reusable cups to 50p as of January 2018.
Around 480 billion plastic bottles are sold every year, of these 110 billion are made by Coca Cola, and less than 50% are collected for recycling. All of Pret A Manager’s Veggie and Manchester stores are now encouraging customers to fill their bottles for free using filtered water stations and selling reusable plastic bottles, giving customers the choice to refill a bottle rather than buying a new one.
More and more operators are making their packaging systems more efficient or moving towards entirely biodegradable solutions by partnering with a green supplier offering compostable lines of cups, napkins and takeaway containers to reduce their impact of packaging waste.
It’s not just packaging where the hospitality industry can help, food waste is a major issue in the UK with an estimated 10 million tonnes of food wasted every year. Here are three ways operators could help reduce that figure and improve sustainability…
Designing a sustainable menu may help in more ways than you think; choosing seasonal ingredients will help keep your menu fresh whilst keeping costs down. Teaming up with local suppliers and producers will not only improve product quality, consumer marketing story and local audience but will reduce the amount of miles the food travels, which lessens the amount of greenhouse gas emission. Buying local also helps keeps local jobs safe in the community and means the team can visit and learn more about products and their origins.
Streamlining menus and limiting the amount of choice goes a long way towards waste and cost saving, at the same time as reducing portion sizes of dishes that are repeatedly returned to the kitchen unfinished. In Manchester, the Real Junk Food Project creates menus that are completely made up of food items from local suppliers that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Splitting restaurant food waste means waste companies are able to collect and recycle it through anaerobic digestion, a process that converts food waste into biogas and uses it to generate electricity, heat or transport fuels. Waste cooking oil can also be collected and converted into biodiesel. A recent example of turning food waste into energy would be Shell’s #MakeTheFuture campaign where they teamed up with bio-bean to produce sustainable biofuels from coffee waste which now helps power London’s buses.
Redistribution & Donation
There’s around 270,000 tonnes of excess food produced by the UK’s food and drink industry every year. That’s enough to make 650 million meals, which could be redistributed to feed the 8.4 million people struggling to eat in the UK.
More and more operators are donating excess food to food banks and homeless charities to help redistribute supplies to people in need. Pret A Manger has been donating unsold food to the homeless for the past 30+ years and currently donates 3 million surplus food items to charities every year. All 1,760 of Greggs stores across the UK are part of a FareShare scheme where unsold stock is redistributed to charities, whilst Pieminister operates a scheme called Little Acts of Pie-ness providing their excess and unsold food to charities and elderly care homes. There are plenty of operators, such as Itsu, who offer customer discounts toward the end of the day to reduce their stock levels and food waste.
Whilst the pace of progress in companies reducing their packaging and food waste is slow, it is progress nonetheless. Operators don’t need to action every single recycling process but they should be aware of areas where they could make a difference. Whilst the media is directing consumer attention towards recycling, operators who make positive changes towards recycling and sustainability sooner rather than later will not only benefit the environment but could potentially publicise their brand at the same time.
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