As the UK’s largest food and support services provider, we not only have a responsibility but also an opportunity to make a real difference in the fight against food waste. Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative set up by our parent company, which sees Compass businesses around the world acting to address this global issue. In the UK alone, the food-service sector throws away one million tonnes of food; 75% of which could have been eaten in some form. That’s why tackling food waste is one of our key areas of focus in relation to our wider sustainability strategy.
Stop Food Waste Day is a great way for us to put food waste front and center of our agenda. Of course, it’s a lot more than one day and something we continue to etch into our everyday habits and processes whether we are a consumer or employee. With an ever-increasing consumer focus on environmental sustainability and social responsibility, complacency is not an option.
As a business, we have identified a 3-pronged approach to minimise waste. This includes, prevention; to reduce the amount of food waste that goes unsold/uneaten, recovery; to donate surplus food to people in need, and recycling; to divert food waste from sewer and landfill.
Prevention is an area where we can make a significant difference. Challenging our employees to review menus in line with demand forecasting and purchasing decisions, before we even start looking at food preparation, is a positive first step. As part of our prevention approach, at some of our larger sites, we use Winnow smart metering technology to measures the type, volume and value of food as it’s thrown away. The information is used in daily team briefings to identify areas for improvement and has brought a cultural change in many kitchens. The benefits of Winnow have been numerous, not only reducing the amount of food waste, but also improving feedback since the food offer is better tailored for the site. Furthermore, many of our sites are now using weigh and pay systems, so the customer only pays for what they eat, significantly reducing plate waste.
Our recovery approach includes the redistribution of our surplus food within our community when products are still within date and fit for consumption. Since 2014, we have partnered with FareShare which passes food on to local charities who then make it into meals for less fortunate or vulnerable groups and in 2018, our distribution centres donated nearly 10 tonnes of surplus food. We also work with online food redistribution charities Plan Zheroes, Olio and Too Good to Go, as well as local charities and community groups.
Finally, our recycling approach includes our ongoing campaign to switch off macerators across the UK and Ireland. We separate food waste for collection – in 2018, 3,500 tonnes of food waste were sent for anaerobic digestion, where it is broken down to create biogas and nutrient-rich fertiliser, and over half a million litres of used cooking oils were recycled into biodiesel.
Our commitment to reducing waste includes our agreement to adopt the principles of Target, Measure and Act within our own operations and we have invited our suppliers to do the same, all whilst engaging with our consumers to help reduce their food waste also. We are a signatory of WRAP Courtauld 2025, a 10-year voluntary agreement that brings together organisations from across the food supply chain, working towards collective targets for 2025 (vs 2015).
As one of the 90 early adopters, we have committed to the ambitious milestones laid out in a new ground-breaking industry Food Waste Reduction Roadmap to halve UK food waste by 2030, developed by both the IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the world leaders in helping organisations achieve greater resource efficiency.
We are well on our way to making a positive difference and it’s been great to see so many of our clients, consumers and employees getting behind Stop Food Waste Day. It’s not too late to get involved – you can make a pledge at our global Stop Food Waste Day website, to say what steps you are taking either as an individual or in the workplace.
I look forward to reporting back in the next year on what success we have had in reducing food waste in our business.