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Britain’s restaurants are throwing away the equivalent of one in six meals, according to a new report that paints a damning picture of the way food waste is managed in the hospitality sector.

The UK’s hospitality and foodservice sector now faces an annual bill in excess of £2.5 billion for food waste, and government body WRAP warns that it could get worse.

The severity of the issue was revealed by WRAP as it today released an ‘Overview on waste in the UK Hospitality and Food Service Sector’, a report that it claims is the most in-depth study of the sector ever undertaken in the UK.

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The findings suggest there are huge opportunities for distributors and equipment to make their mark in this area given that the cost of food waste to the industry could climb to £3 billion by 2016.

“Although the headline figures are large, there are significant opportunities across the whole hospitality and food service sector to reduce costs by tackling food waste,” said Charlotte Henderson, programme manager for hospitality and foodservice WRAP. “When you consider the average annual cost per outlet is an estimated £10,000, it makes business sense to save money by reducing food waste.”

The report looked at waste management in nine subsectors, including restaurants, quick service restaurants, hotels, pubs, leisure, healthcare, education, staff catering and services.

Key findings included the following:

• The total annual waste including food, packaging and other ‘non-foods’ produced across the sector is 2.87 million tonnes. Of this, 46% is recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted.

• Total food waste accounts for 920,000 tonnes of this overall figure, the equivalent to 1.3 billion meals or one in six of the 8 billion meals served annually by the sector.

• 75% of all food wasted was avoidable and could have been eaten. Food waste generally arises from three main areas: 21% due to spoilage, 45% from food preparation and 34% from consumer plates.

• The estimated cost of a tonne of food waste is £2,800.

WRAP said steps were already underway to help industry tackle the problem of food waste. The Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, a voluntary commitment created by WRAP on behalf of the governments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was launched in June 2012 and has 171 signatories and supporters.

The Agreement is aiming to reduce food and associated packaging waste by 5% by the end of 2015 versus a 2012 baseline and increase the overall rate of food and packaging waste being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted to at least 70% by the end of 2015.

Tags : catering equipmentfood wasteManufacturersrestaurantsWaste disposalWaste management
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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