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What is food waste?

Food waste is any edible food removed from the food supply chain to be disposed of (FAO, 2019). In other words, it is any food that is intended for but not used for human consumption. In HoReCa, food waste can be divided into kitchen waste (from the preparation of meals) and plate waste (meal leftovers).

Facts and figures on food waste

It is estimated that around a third of the world’s food is lost every year. This is equivalent to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food (FAO, 2019) and 10% of the world's CO2 emissions, which is 4 times more than the share of the aviation industry. Economically speaking, 2.6 trillion dollars per year are lost because of wasted food (FAO, 2019). From an environmental perspective, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be behind the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions (Zhongming, 2021).

The recent UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimated that 26% of all food waste generated in 2019 came from food service. This includes restaurants, catering and hospitality enterprises (HoReCa) (Zhongming, 2021).

Impact of food waste reduction

Kitchen professionals know best that every ingredient counts. In a world where people still struggle to access enough food, wasting food is also unethical and unfair.

Food waste is not only a significant economic loss for the HoReCa sector but also an unjustifiable waste of resources such as water, energy and land. Inefficient food handling, overproduction, and inaccurate ordering contribute to large amounts of food being thrown away each year.

There are various causes of food waste but many of them are rooted in a lack of organization and preparation such as:

  • improper forecasting
  • neglecting to plan,
  • budget for expenses such as repairs,
  • insufficient staffing.

As these can be easily changed with awareness and thoughtful modifications, kitchen professionals have the power to make a difference.

Reducing food waste is one of the most effective ways a professional kitchen can contribute to improving efficiency in a workplace, control of stock, and cut costs with simultaneous revenue increase and positive customer experience.

By wise planning and rational use of resources, common ground and understanding between staff and guests can be created. Actions preventing food waste are not only cost-orientated. They can be used as the foundation for a profitable, sustainable business model that reduces harmful environmental effects and promotes social responsibility.