Breaking down the figures

The true cost of food waste


The amount and true cost of food waste that the hospitality industry produces are a problem that the sector should work together towards fixing. Daniel Truss from Go Green Tomato discusses the aspects of waste within the UK hospitality sector along with its financial implications. 


Source: WRAP Food waste report, November 2013

In 2013, the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP), a UK government sponsored organisation, commissioned a study into food waste within the hospitality and food Sector and discovered some interesting facts, for instance:

  • Hotels account for 8% of all meals eaten out which equates to about 613 million meals a year
  • 19% of all the food hotels purchased (by weight) was wasted.
  • Total food loss was 78 thousand tonnes of food a year of which
  • 49 thousand tonnes (avoidable waste) was perfectly edible
  • Equivalent of throwing away 1 meal in every six served.
  • 66% of food waste was caused by over production, spoilage and expiration
  • 34% was caused by plate waste.
  • Source Oakdene Hollins

Report 2

Source: WRAP Food waste report, November 2013

Financial Implications

Throwing this much food away has a considerable impact on the sector that goes beyond the normal costs associated with waste collection.

The study estimates that the additional annual cost to the hotel sector is about £318m a year, or £0.52 per meal but the killer statistic was the so called “True Cost” of food waste disposal. Most businesses think of the cost of food waste as the price they pay to the waste contractor says WRAP, but to determine the true cost of food waste, the businesses should also include the;

  • Purchase price of the food
  • The additional labour,
  • Energy,
  • Waste,
  • Admin,
  • Water,
  • Transport and consumables.

Across the hospitality and foodservice sector, they determined that the average disposal price (per tonne) is £2,800,00 and in the hotel segment a staggering £4,000.00.

Food waste segregation and landfill diversion.

For a long time the advice WRAP gave to reduce costs was to segregate food waste and divert it from landfill to an AD plant or in vessel composter, the problem with this strategy is that it might be more sustainable but it does nothing to reduce the volume of waste. Another issue with diversion is that it may not be a cheaper alternative for much longer.

Evidence suggests that costs are set to rise because (a) the UK is reaching a saturation point with the number of AD plants and composters available (b) the volume of feed material needed by these plants is falling and (c) the government incentives to the waste contractor to accept food is being removed.

Waste prevention through monitoring and measurement.

Recently DEFRA and WRAP has announced that food waste prevention is now their number one priority. There are two ways to do this, one is manually and the other is by using technology. With several options becoming available to the market that help businesses track their types of waste and drive efficient waste reduction results, there should be a concerted effort from the industry to help drive these figures down.

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