Jul 25 2023

Getting to the root cause of food waste – options for change

Written by Orderly Marketing
Food in a bin bag on a plate

Food waste continues to pose a significant challenge for the manufacturing, hospitality, and food service sectors. In the United Kingdom alone, an alarming 2.6 million tonnes of food are wasted annually, valued at approximately £3.7 billion. What are the key strategies that can drive significant reductions in food waste, benefiting both businesses and society as a whole? We explore the most commonly held views on what can be done.

Public Awareness Campaigns

Awareness campaigns such as “Love Food, Hate Waste” can inspire greater engagement and encourage individuals to actively participate in reducing food waste at a home level. These campaigns shouldn’t be dismissed – as half the battle for those in the food and beverage sector is education and understanding from consumers. The customer-centric programs similar to Sainsbury’s “Waste Less, Save More” initiative empowers consumers to make informed choices and minimise food waste.

Government Policies

Making food surplus and minimisation management plan requirements is the next step. This can be carrot or the stick – public sector contracts can incentivise waste prevention in catering establishments and encourage regular progress reports, or there could be fines for non-compliance.

Requiring businesses to develop comprehensive food surplus and waste minimisation plans means more management and monitoring – a likely task for Environmental Health Officers and the Environment Agency in somewhere such as a hospitality /food service sector.

Enhanced or Mandatory Data Collection and Reporting

There’s a keen focus on this angle right now. The method is based on the concept that accurate data on the types and quantities of waste produced is crucial for effective waste management, something most of us would agree with. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The only issue is that this is a huge undertaking. To streamline this process, all producers and handlers of waste, including food waste, could utilise an electronic Duty of Care system developed by organizations such as the Environment Agency (EA) and WRAP for more precise tracking and reporting of waste.

The issue? It’s all about size.

In the UK, large commercial organisations, including hospitals and educational facilities, must calculate and report on the percentage of food surplus and wastage from all foodstuffs combined, and while great – it’s potentially excluding the greater number of smaller enterprises that contribute to food waste. To be more comprehensive, reporting requirements need to extend to a broader range of businesses, including those in the retail, hospitality, and healthcare sectors.

Mandatory food waste reporting by large food businesses promotes transparency and accountability. It provides stakeholders, including consumers, investors, and policymakers, with access to valuable data on food waste generation, enabling informed decision-making and targeted interventions. These reporting requirements help identify sectors and businesses with magnified food loss and waste, permitting targeted interventions and support. It focuses on specified identification of where waste reduction solutions will be most effective.

This is all super. However, everything comes at a cost. When it comes to mandatory food waste reporting, there’s an administrative burden, which requires businesses to allocate resources, time, and effort to collect, analyse, and report data. There are also compliance costs. That means that businesses may need to invest in new technologies, systems, or staff training to meet reporting requirements. These costs can pose challenges for companies with limited financial resources, potentially creating barriers for smaller players.

And where there is data – there will always be issues with accuracy, especially if you use a spreadsheet! Self-reporting may be challenging to ensure the accuracy and reliability of reported data. Inaccurate or inconsistent reporting undermines effectiveness and hinders the ability to make informed decisions based on the data.

Food and beverage management technology made easy

It’s a tall order to report on waste for organisations that don’t have extensive resources and necessary tech systems, but a system like Orderly’s food and beverage (F&B) management software reasonably puts compliance within everyone’s grasp.

The UK is already the first country to reduce its food waste by 25%, beating its target of 20% by 2025. This equates to half of their SDG 12.3 target of 50% food waste reduction by 2030.But to put the world right, it is going to take everyone doing their part, from large conglomerates to smaller chains. Don’t wait for any mandatory food waste reporting rules – start your own revolution.

Our software can support you in identifying and decreasing food waste, for improved profits and outcomes.

Contact Orderly to learn how your food and beverage chain can accurately report on food loss and waste.