When fitting a kitchen on a budget, eco-friendly waste management systems are often one of the first pieces of kit to be put on the chopping block. But with a closer eye falling on green kitchens and caterers wanting to protect their bottom lines, it is garnering more attention. Catering Insight’s Emma Calder investigates:
It is an area of the kitchen that foodservice operators and dealers can be forgiven for overlooking when the heat is on, but failure to get a handle on food waste can have costly implications for any business running multiple sites.
Food waste is big business. Last year the cost of food being wasted in the UK from the UK hospitality and foodservice sector exceeded £3bn following a £500m boom.
It’s also estimated that the sector produces 400,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste and 200,000 tonnes of unavoidable food waste every year, of which 21% is spoilage, 45% is food preparation and 34% from consumers.
Sending food waste to landfill is not only costly for foodservice businesses, it’s also becoming increasingly damaging for the environment. The industry needs to take hold of the issue and drive forward the changes needed to enable businesses to segregate and dispose of food waste at source.
Despite the heaps of money that is chucked down the rubbish shoot as food waste, caterers are often unwilling to part with their cash for the high-end eco-friendly waste reduction systems that cut running costs by producing reusable products.
To tick all the boxes, manufacturers are bringing solutions to the market that reduce the amount of perishable products reaching landfills as well repurposing waste materials, but these solutions don’t come cheap.
“The investment in a food waste management system is considerable, however when compared to the traditional bin collection services along with landfill gate costs, it can be justified, especially if the amount of food waste escalates into several tons over a financial year,” explained Martin Allen, First Choice Environmental Solutions project manager.
Meiko MD Paul Anderson concurs with Allen, citing manual labour as one of the areas where savings can be made with a successful waste system. He said: “It is also often forgotten that there is considerable labour and cost involved in maintaining the hygiene of food waste storage areas, wheelie bins and the like, utilising sanitising chemicals, pressure sprays and even ozone air cleaning systems. Customers have also reported huge reductions in the number of bin bags.”
With waste an ever prominent issue within the industry there is now a myriad of options that could leave operators and dealers feeling like a deer in the headlights.
For Allen the basic components boil down to drainage, for kitchen logistics as well as water company bylaws.
“Without doubt if a system uses water and discharges to drain/sewer, then WRAS approval will be required – also expect a visit from your local water company to validate the systems safe discharge and risk of contamination to the water system. You should ensure CE approvals are adhered to and make sure no local authority or water company bylaws affect the systems validity.
“A good system will eliminate odours, insect and rodent infestation by not having waste lying around in bins, especially in hot weather. Another plus point is that this also helps general staff wellbeing within the working environment. It can also help in new builds by adding vital environmental requirements or credits for standards such as the BREEAM building standards.”
Beyond the bread and butter necessities of waste management lies a plethora of options that dealers can present to their operators who can peruse before finding the most suitable environmentally-sound system for their kitchen.
The growing desire by foodservice businesses to be more sustainable while reducing costs and improving recycling rates should drive equipment distributors to offer sound advice and recommend money-saving, green technologies to their customers so that the issue of food waste can be tackled head on.
More and more manufacturers are unveiling tech solutions that recycle the wasted products or divert from landfills as well as aiming to reduce the amount that is disposed of in the first place.
“With a decent system you will automatically reduce waste collection costs by either turning food waste into something than can be used as a reusable compost or as fuel to be used within the anaerobic process to produce energy,” said Allen.
Despite the ability to cut down operators’ carbon footprints and trim fat in the budget, many members of the foodservice industry are yet to fit out their kitchens with the latest green technology.
With many of the positive impacts only becoming visible once the system has been implemented, operators who have opted to stick to their current systems may be unaware of how their kitchens could benefit from re-evaluating green practices.
Lee Vines, chief executive of PKL, which recently introduce the Garbage Guzzler system, said: “Most waste management systems will highlight and record what waste you are producing, which in itself can help reduce waste. If you realise you are over-ordering, it’s a quick and easy win to reduce your outgoings.”
While operators are coming around to the idea of green waste management systems due to the encouragement of dealers, there is still a diverse offering of what environmental-friendly characteristics are available.
IMC MD Steven Witt added his voice to the debate: “With these systems, waste is reduced to zero with a valuable compost remaining at the end. If the customer prefers not to compost then the by-product of solutions such as IMC’s WasteStation is perfect ‘feed’ for anaerobic digestion plants.”
Mechline’s marketing manager Kristian Roberts insists that the brand’s Waste2O bio-digester offers the ideal in-house solution without the need to store food waste for collection or pay collection and disposal fees, but he recognises that installing the right equipment is only half the battle.
The device, which is capable of digesting 180kg of end-of-life food waste in 24 hours and converting it to safe to discharge waste water, diverts food waste from landfill. The equipment also guarantees that once fitted it can save up to 96 tonnes of CO2 per annum.
The Waste2O bio-digester claims to cut both running costs and foodservice waste. Through the requirement of fewer end-of-life food collections, less fuel and energy are used, which should reduce operators’ carbon footprint.
He said: “Mechline’s Waste2O food waste biodigester is an economical and environmental on-site solution for dealing with unavoidable end-of-life food waste and avoiding the need for costly waste management fees.”
While the biodigester looks to cut waste and environmental damage caused by food by-products, the Garbage Guzzler from PKL looks to repurpose waste materials into biodegradable fuels and soil improvers.
The unit is an organic waste digester, however requires food waste to work efficiently. As long as the user is putting enough food waste through the machine, then they can also mix it with a range of other organic waste materials. It is recommended that an average mix of 60% wet to 40% dry waste is put into the unit.
While many have been looking to kit to exclusively solve all of their food wastage issues, others are implementing them to prevent food waste before it occurs.
A recent research study, carried out by WRAP, estimated that £2.5bn of food was wasted in each year by the hospitality and foodservice industry. Of the total 920,000 tonnes of wasted food that is disposed of every year it is predicted that approximately 75% could have been avoided.
For Mechline’s marketing manager, equipment waste reduction plays an important role. Roberts said: “There are cost savings to be made in the way operators choose to manage food, with the greatest opportunity being in preventing food waste in the first place.
“Avoidable food waste could include leftovers, plate scrapings, and food that has reached its expiry date before it could be eaten; much of which could be prevented and generate significant cost savings. Preventing food waste would reduce end-of-life disposal costs, food purchase costs by using ingredients more effectively, energy costs and labour costs.”
Mechline isn’t the only company looking to take strides in reducing the quantity of food thrown away, as First Choice is looking to technical solutions to monitor binned materials.
First Choice’s Allen commented: “Starting from scratch, operators should immediately be assessing the initial cause of waste and, where possible, always take steps to reduce waste at the beginning of the preparation process, as this can often be considerable.
“The issue many operators face is usually a lack of space; this means a compact footprint is essential. Also key is a hygienic design that ensures the surfaces are easy to clean, especially the areas where the food waste is deposited.
It is important the system benefits the environment in relation to what the machine does with its food waste and operating costs. Ease of operation must be considered too – for instance can the system be integrated to handle plate waste from the wash-up area? Does it have the possibility of multiple entry feeds?
Another roadblock that often causes operators to trip up is the lacking of regulation, something which IMC’s Witt is keen to address. “Ideally, any organic food waste system should be compliant with the country’s specific waste legislation whilst also observing all relevant drainage regulations. Where drainage limits on waste streams have been implemented by law, testing of the waste system should be able to prove that it falls within the required Biological Oxygen Demands (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demands (COD), as well as requirements relating to suspended solid particles.”
While each option is able to offer its own unique set of advantages, there’s no magic device that can transform every catering venue.
As Witt concluded: “There are many technical and operational features that might be considered crucial for a waste management system but, as one solution cannot fit all, the most important feature of all is that the one chosen is fit for the client’s purpose.”