A new report commissioned by the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum (HCRF) suggests restaurants and food outlets are failing to make the most of potential savings on food waste management.
The organisation, whose members include Whitbread, J D Wetherspoons, Mitchells and Butlers, Nandos and Hammerson, reckons food waste management costs can be reduced by 30% and much less food be sent to landfill than it currently is.
Its members collectively spend more than £46m on waste processing, but half of all food waste — some 150,000 tonnes — still goes to landfill. Transportation, bulking up sites and delivery to Anaerobic Digestion facilities represent the single largest cost element.
Peter Charlesworth of Carbon Statement, who was commissioned to investigate the food waste problem on behalf of HCRF members, said that collaboration between companies on waste collection and efficient backhauling by logistics operators could transform the UK’s waste industry.
He added that if more food waste went to anaerobic digestion and energy, the sector would become more efficient and businesses’ overall waste costs would drop.
“The hospitality sector is up against it — Scottish legislation due in 2014 will largely end the dumping of food waste to landfill, landfill costs are rising and fuel prices are continuing to drive up delivery and collection costs,” said Charlesworth.
With utility costs expected to rise by at least 30% in the next three years, Carbon Statement estimates hospitality sector companies will have to increase their turnover by more than 10% just to maintain their current business margins.
As far as the HCRF’s members go, avoiding the spiralling costs of landfill and legislative change while improving the efficiency of waste management collection remains important. Whitbread, for instance, already sends restaurant food waste to AD plants and has set itself the target of sending no waste to landfill by 2017.
Charlesworth added: “A change in distribution and pricing brought about by the collaboration of the hospitality industry could lead a wholesale change in the way that companies manage their waste streams. This has the potential to create a ‘linked-up waste strategy’ that would work for the overall benefit of hospitality forum members and possibly be adopted by other sectors.”
The growth in Anaerobic Digestion plants from today’s 28 sites to an expected 67 by the end of 2016 is also expected to create a more competitive market for food waste suppliers which in turn will help reduce costs.
It is estimated that the current food waste that goes to landfill could provide 25% of the extra AD capacity coming on stream in the next two years.