It is the first post from this 5 episode blog series about food waste in the gastronomy industry. You will be able to differentiate it by the title (of course) and its colour. Enjoy!
My interest in this topic started a couple of years ago. My friend came back home from a Work&Travel program in the US. He worked in a restaurant in the Yellowstone National Park. Of course as he was a student, the work was hard and tiring, but it wasn’t the biggest problem. What he could not stand was one of his duties, which was throwing out the garbage full of edible food and it was around 200 kgs (440 lbs) per day. At first I was thinking: “poor guy, he has to carry so much weight each day!” But then it hit me! I started thinking about the number of people carrying this waste, multiplied by the number of restaurants, then by the number of countries etc. I was shocked!
Where does the schock come from? Because the average person (who only cares about the food on his plate) do not think on a large scale. If we think about the number of times we threw something into the garbage simply because we were not hungry anymore, and multiply it by the number of people in the world, we start to see the whole picture. That is why the statistics are so important for this topic! I will present you some of them to give you a basic notion of the problem.
- an average restaurant in America disposes of about 50 tonnes of food waste each year, from which 76% is organic and can be recycled
- the British restaurants dispose in total of 600,000 tonnes of food waste per year
- an average restaurant in Britain disposes of about 22 tonnes of food waste per year, which means each time a person eats, it creates 0.5 kg (1.2 lbs) of waste
- in comparison to the restaurants, the British households throw out 12 million tonnes of food waste per year costing them up to $19 billion
- around 40% of all food is being thrown out, which works out for a 0.5 kg of food for every american each day
- full service restaurants throw out more food than fast food eateries. Food waste makes up respectively to 66% and 52% of all trash
- check out this figure showing us the amount of disposed food wastes in different regions
This short list of numbers can quickly transmit the seriousness of this problem to any person, making them think that a solution must have certainly come into existence by now.
There are a lot of reasons behind the colossal waste of food that goes on in the restaurant industry, but I would say that one of the largest causes has to do with corporate restaurant policy regarding the treatment of leftovers. And by this I don’t mean leftovers on someone’s plate. I am referring to the disposal of food that is left on the steam table or in the oven at the end of the night. That food can be reheated one more time, with no risk of contamination that could come from the leftovers of customers, cooled properly and refrigerated. Most of the corporate restaurants do not have the same flexibility as the small restaurants. Sometimes restaurants have special garbage tanks for food waste which are locked. They lock them to ensure that outsiders won’t have access to their food waste. But is this not against the idea of garbage? Even with so many cultures and habits in the world, the idea of garbage is still pretty unanimous. If you throw something out, it means you do not need it anymore, doesn’t it?
The situation is already changing, but we still have a long way to go. In my next entries I will develop more on this topic and present some policies that are being or had been introduced to improve this phenomenon. You will also get to know some possible solutions to this issue and organisations that are trying to change the way we think about food wastes.
1. Gustavson, Jenny; Cederberg, Christel; Sonesson, Ulf; van Otterdijk, Robert; Meybeck, Alexandre (2011). Global Food Losses and Food Waste
posted by Piotr Wielezynski