Festive Food Waste: Why and How to Avoid it
With the festive season rapidly approaching we’re bracing ourselves for an influx of food waste across all our anaerobic digestion sites.
It’s approximated that over 4.2 million Christmas dinners were thrown away across the UK last year.
If you break that Christmas food waste down, it equates to over
- 260,000 turkeys
- 7.5 million mince pies
- 740,000 servings of Christmas pudding!
We’re firm believers in reducing and reusing where possible, but where this isn’t possible, the outcome of this food waste recycling will be the creation of green energy in the form of electricity and biogas.
More Christmas Food Waste Stats
In 2021, we recycled over 430,000 tonnes of food waste and, during the Christmas period, saw an increase of 7.5% in Christmas-related food waste across each of our strategically located sites up and down the UK.
The energy generated from this level of tonnage could be used to power 51,000km of LED fairy lights or produce enough energy to light up the British coastline approximately 15 times.
If we weren’t going to use the energy generated to light up fairy lights, we could use it to cook a turkey dinner for 1.8m families!
With over 2/3rds of people openly admitting they overbuy at Christmas, we’re anticipating an increased level of food waste around this time of the year. And, whilst households are responsible for 70% of all food waste generated in the country, the food and hospitality sector also plays a part.
In order to make a difference in the amount of pollution generated through food waste, both need to work towards reducing food waste, especially around the festival season.
Why do we need to reduce food waste?
The problem with food waste is that it can cause a lot of damage to the environment. When it’s sent to landfills, it decomposes and produces Methane (CH4), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and water vapour. These are all greenhouse gases and are responsible for global warming.
Normally, foods like uncooked vegetables and eggshells would undergo the process of composting and become food for the soil. However, in landfills, they don’t have the right conditions.
As a result, they simply rot in the absence of air, producing liquids that combine with toxic metals to create leachate that poisons the soil around the landfill. Greenhouse gases and toxicity are just two of the negative effects of landfills.
However, if this food waste was kept out of landfills, that would reduce the burden on the environment. And, if it was Anaerobically Digested, it could be used to generate a sustainable biofuel and biofertiliser.
11 Tips for Reducing Christmas Food Waste
Christmas can be a very profitable time for food & hospitality businesses as more people want to outsource their dinners. It’s easier for the family to go out for a meal instead of cooking at home. Or, if cooking at home, the work can be reduced if some parts of the meal are pre-prepared.
However, it is also better for your business if you reduce food waste during the festive season, and recycle the unavoidable waste. We’ve already discussed how it benefits your bottom line but here are the key points:
- Money saving
- Reduced disposal charges
- Better for the environment
- Better for your green credentials
What we haven’t discussed here is how your business can reduce food waste. Let’s give you our (and WRAP’s) top tips.
1. Follow the Target-Measure-Act strategy
Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has detailed a food waste reduction strategy for the food service industry. The main philosophy behind this 6-week strategy is to create a target of how much food waste you want to reduce, measure how much you are wasting at each stage of food production, and act to cut it down accordingly.
Your target can be a figure you think works best for your business, though 20% is what WRAP suggests. You can set a target more or even less than that—it depends on your business and you.
2. Rethink your offerings
If you’ve been paying attention to your clientele’s preferences, you’d be able to assess your product range and see if there is anything on there that is not as popular.
If you have items that are very rarely ordered, but you have to keep them in stock in case someone does, it might be better to remove them altogether.
3. Buy efficiently
- Certain items go off quicker than others, whilst some can be kept in storage for months. Similarly, some forms of food preservation help you keep that item for a long time.
- When you’re planning your purchases, try and fit in frozen, canned, or dried versions of ingredients wherever possible. These will last much longer and you won’t need to worry about them being used in time.
- If you’re serving certain cuts of meat in your meals, buy them pre-cut. That will not only save your staff time in preparing them but will also reduce waste.
4. Make sure your storage equipment is working properly
When you have stocked your refrigerators and freezers with holiday food, the last thing you need is your ‘fridge breaking down or not cooling efficiently. So make sure your storage equipment has been serviced and working optimally before you get hit with the holiday rush.
Remember, food goes bad much faster if it is stored at temperatures that are even slightly higher than recommended.
5. Rethink food labels
Consumers tend to follow food date labels very literally, which can often lead to them throwing out ingredients and produce that is perfectly fine. Commercial food manufacturers are being asked by WRAP to rethink the way they label their products.
The guidance encourages businesses to only print a ‘use-by’ date if there is a food safety reason. Otherwise, a ‘best-before’ date might be better. The guide also suggests providing storage guidance so the food is less likely to go ‘off’ due to improper storage conditions.
6. Plan portion sizes
Here’s another food waste reduction tip that relies on the hospitality sector’s knowledge of your customers. Do you often see plates coming back with food left? If yes, you might be serving portion sizes that are too large and could do with reducing them.
Alternatively, consider offering more than one portion size. That way, people who know they have a small appetite would be able to order less food without having to resort to the kids’ menu.
That, in turn, will mean less food left on plates to be thrown out.
7. Allow customers to take leftovers home
8. Distribution and donations
As part of the food service and distribution industry, you need to have surplus food available or prepped to meet customer demand during the holiday season. However, anything that is not consumed (or bought) might have to be thrown out for health and safety reasons.
In that case, you may want to consider food redistribution and donation and organisations like Fareshare can help you with this. Your business will reduce the amount of food thrown out and you will help less fortunate people and families enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner.
9. Reuse leftover food
If certain leftover food items are not suitable for donation, think about how you can reuse them. Maybe the fish you have prepped, and cooked, could be used to make a fish pie. Or, the turkey carcass could be used to make stock.
Can leftover salad ingredients be fermented or made into soups?
Think creatively, and nearly all your food waste could become the foundation of the next day’s offerings.
10. Allow staff to take leftovers
If your leftover food cannot be donated, reused, or repurposed, it might be an idea to offer it to your staff. That way, they can enjoy some of the food that would have been binned. Meanwhile, you won’t have to bin it!
11. Remember to dispose of waste cooking oil and fats legally
As we approach December, it’s useful to remember that as businesses you are responsible for the safe disposal of your food waste and waste cooking oils and fats. These need to be stored and disposed of safely and responsibly. They cannot be poured down the drain.
What BioteCH4 can do to help
Once food waste is collected it is transported to one of our strategically located sites across the UK and will be used as part of the Anaerobic Digestion process to generate gas and electricity to power local businesses or be sold back to the national grid.
The food waste is used for good, helping you reduce your C02 emissions and improving your green credentials and sustainability.
As well as assisting with reducing your environmental impact on the local and wider community, your actions of creating green energy from food waste will also enable you to reduce the environmental impact of your business and reduce C02 levels created by food waste that goes straight to landfills.
With the top 5 wasted food this Christmas, featuring mince pies, turkey, Christmas puddings and Brussel sprouts it’s likely we’ll all be contributing to the generation of green gas and electricity over the coming weeks.
For each tonne of waste processed through the anaerobic digestion process rather than being sent to a landfill, 500kg of C02 emissions are avoided. This is the equivalent of a ¼ of a million tonnes of C02, stopped from entering the atmosphere in the last 12 months – quite an achievement!
Festive Food Waste Management
If you’d like to talk to us about your food waste or waste cooking oil collection from commercial premises over the coming weeks, then please get in touch with a member of the team..