The “Zero Waste” concept is defined by the International Alliance as the management strategies developed to diminish and potentially eliminate the waste generated, as well as finding reliable, more efficient systems and processes that will contribute to it. The food and accommodation industry are generating enormous volumes of waste as a result of the type of activity they have. From food to packaging, wastewaters from toilets and showers, kitchens, and laundries are only some of the types of waste generated by these two industries. However, each entity that activates in these two industries is generating different amounts of waste, depending on its own specifics and internal practices and policies. Regardless, there arises the need for a smarter, more efficient approach to waste management in the food and accommodation industry.
Goals of The “Zero Waste” Concept
Zero waste has both pragmatic and visionary goals, mainly revolving around reshaping the wrongful impression that Earth’s natural resources are unlimited, available for longer than they truly are. Some of the main goals of the “Zero Waste” movement are as it follows.
- Culture Change – the patterns in the European and worldwide production and consumption is a fairly linear one, with an increasing ecological deficit. This means that a change of paradigm in which a more cyclical lifestyle and manufacturing pattern are implemented is necessary. The reduction in material and energy waste are the cornerstones of this new paradigm.
- Increased community engagement – educating the community and encouraging it to participate actively in this new trend in which the reduction of the ecological deficit and waste generation is the primary necessary concern.
- Changing the infrastructure and processes in the manufacturing and service industry – new, more efficient practices have to be embraced at a large scale, in all industries, for an effective goal accomplishment. Reducing waste has to be a goal of all large players in all industries, and not only of the community.
European Waste Reduction and Management Movements and Initiatives
At the level of the European Union, a series of new movements and voluntary actions that have as a main goal waste reduction and management in the food and hospitality industry have emerged. Ireland’s Green Hospitality movement and awards increased the levels of awareness at a national and European level and emphasized the fact that food waste and wastewater management is one of the burning matters in the food and hospitality industry. Nowadays, more than 150 hotels and 10 big names in the catering industry are members of the movement. This means that all those businesses met the strict food waste management and wastewater management.
Another nation that is also thriving at reducing the volumes of food waste, is France. In fact, France is one of the leading names worldwide when it comes to such environmental matters, being almost the only nation worldwide with a set of strict rules and regulations for restaurants, hotels and citizens at the same time. An example of an extraordinary initiative in terms of waste management that originates from France is the country’s initiative to implement a strict coercive system on all entities with food management responsibilities. The fees for those entities that fail to follow the regulations in force can go up to 70.000 euros. In France, effective recycling and waste management systems are mandatory for all restaurants, including fast food restaurants (you can see what fast food restaurants are doing in this regard).
Supermarkets and citizens are also requested to follow rules and regulations, as big food waste generating entities. Since 2016, France has prohibited supermarkets from throwing away unsold perishables and other products and imposed high fees for those who failed to follow the guidelines. The main solution found by the French Government at that time was donating the unsold goods to charities and NGOs. In Paris, the French capital, a municipality initiative requires all citizens to recycle organic food waste and repurpose it as biofuel, fertilisers and bioenergy. In this regard, the vast majority of households are equipped with modern recycling systems.
What Can Restaurants and Hotels do to Reduce Food Waste?
Eliminating completely food waste is impossible, at least in the hospitality and food industry. However, restaurants, hotels and other operators can consider investing in more efficient waste management solutions, as the technological advancements in this matter have made extraordinary steps ahead. Compacting machines that reduce the volume of the waste are available nowadays on a large scale and they can save restaurants and hotels plenty of money in the long run. Only in the UK, restaurants and hotels produce approximately 2900,000 tonnes of waste each year, including approx. 80,000 tonnes of food waste. In most of the cases, this waste ends up in landfills. The decomposition of this type of waste generates large amounts of carbon dioxide, leaving a big footprint on the environment. Besides investing in smart food waste management and disposal equipment, there are several other steps that will assure a better development and implementation of these initiatives.
- Spoilage prevention – a careful assessment of the food and stock necessary, as well as the food delivery process. A correct stocking procedure of the food will also contribute to reducing food waste caused by spoilage.
- Menu planning and ordering – a good advice is food pre-portioning and using frozen and dried ingredients preponderantly. Use reservation forecasts to anticipate how much food your restaurant has to prepare to meet the request.
- Creative menus help reduce food waste. Think of all leftover ingredients as new ingredients in other meals and courses.
These are only some of the many intelligent, smart strategies and approaches entities that activate in the food and hospitality industry can put into practice to get closer to the “Zero Waste” movement goals. Of course, nationwide initiatives help to create the necessary context for these practices to appear and evolve, and ultimately, to create a sustainable and effective industry, in which food waste is nearly inexistent.