Knowledge for better food systems

Report published on waste in the UK hospitality sector

A report commissioned by WRAP (the Waste Resources Action Programme) has found that the hospitality sector could save up to £724m a year through a combination of waste prevention and diverting material from landfill to anaerobic digestion. The report, is entitled The Composition of Waste Disposed of by the UK Hospitality Industry.

Some of its main findings are as follows:

It estimates that in  2009, UK hotels, pubs, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and restaurants

A report commissioned by WRAP (the Waste Resources Action Programme) has found that the hospitality sector could save up to £724m a year through a combination of waste prevention and diverting material from landfill to anaerobic digestion. The report, is entitled The Composition of Waste Disposed of by the UK Hospitality Industry.

Some of its main findings are as follows:

It estimates that in  2009, UK hotels, pubs, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and restaurants

  • produced just over 3.4 million tonnes of waste;
  • recycled, reused or composted just over 1.6 million tonnes or 48% of it; and
  • disposed of a little under 1.5 million tonnes or 43% of it as mixed waste – this has been the focus of this study.

Around three-quarters of the mixed waste is made up of just four materials:

  • food waste (600,000 tonnes or 41%)
  • paper (196,000 tonnes or 13%)
  • glass (213,000 tonnes or 14%)
  • card (134,000 tonnes or 9%).

Of the 600,000 tonnes of food waste in the mixed waste, 400,000 tonnes (67%) is avoidable, i.e. it could have been eaten had it been better portioned, managed, stored and/or prepared.

Significant amounts of food waste are potentially available for anaerobic digestion or in-vessel composting. Just 6% of companies said they currently compost food waste. Almost all (97%) of the food in the mixed waste was not contained within any packaging, thereby avoiding the need for potentially expensive de-packaging processes. This research estimates that UK hospitality businesses pay around £1.02 billion a year to buy all the food that is wasted. If all this waste was diverted from landfill – where most currently goes – to AD, businesses could potentially save £6.6 million a year because AD is typically a cheaper option than landfill ( currently around £11 cheaper per tonne; the potential savings from diverting unavoidable food waste are in the region of £2 million a year). As AD facilities and associated collections of food waste from businesses become more widespread in the UK, more and more hospitality businesses should be able to take advantage of these economic savings.

Overall the report estimates that up to 80% of all waste produced could be recycled, with food waste representing a “particular opportunity”. Food waste accounts for 41% by weight of total waste.

The report finds that although the prevention of food waste offers the sector a significant opportunity to reduce waste and cut costs, doing so in practice may be challenging because of the need to ensure that customers feel they are getting value for money. The report also concludes that there are also opportunities to reduce packaging waste, but this is generally not within the control of any one hospitality business but needs to be tackled across the industry as a whole, through the whole supply chain.

The hospitality sector is defined in the report to include hotels, restaurants, pubs and quick service restaurants. The report’s findings are based on (among other things) telephone interviews with 1660 individual business sites, and a site audit of 138 businesses. The report notes that the “exploratory nature and intrinsic complexity of this research resulted in relatively small sample sizes. The information in this report should therefore be regarded as indicative of the quantities of waste produced by elements of the hospitality sector.”

You can download the report here.

 

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