Hospitality businesses “need to stick their hands up and say what they’re doing [to tackle food waste]”, the government’s food surplus and waste champion Ben Elliot told a room of operators today.
Elliot described the UK’s food waste production as a ‘national disgrace’, and said businesses need to take action to minimise it and be transparent. The waste champion said operators have been receptive to his message seeing that it makes sense both financially and commercially, adding that it’s “not just millennials” who are going to be asking questions.
“If organisations of scale don’t get on with making those commitments of reducing food waste, then [environment secretary Michael] Gove is minded to regulate,” he warned.
The entrepreneur and UK partner of Din Tai Fung restaurant in Covent Garden said he wanted it to become a “social faux pas” for catering organisations to not deal with their waste, for doggy bags to become fashionable and for restaurants to display their food waste credentials front-of-house like they do their food hygiene ratings.
Elliot was speaking at the Montague on the Gardens hotel in London’s Bloomsbury to mark the launch of the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s (SRA) six-week online programme Food Waste: Bad Taste to help businesses make marked, measurable inroads into their food waste.
More than 10 million tonnes of edible food is binned each year in the UK – equivalent to one in six meals served thrown away, enough to fill the Shard 10 times. Elliot urged businesses to sign the ‘step up to the plate’ pledge to commit to reducing their food waste and show Gove that the industry considers food waste to be a significant problem and is actively looking for solutions.
With pressure mounting on the sector to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, to halve food waste by 2030, the SRA will support 100 businesses through the hands-on, six-week programme.
Juliane Caillouette-Noble, development director of the SRA, said: “No one needs reminding of the scandalous scale of food waste. What’s important is that we as an industry stand up and mean it when we say food is too good to waste. That’s why we’ve canvassed opinion from across a range of operators, drawn on our experience of running the successful FoodSave programme and created Food Waste: Bad Taste – a programme we think can have real impact because it recognises the challenges and makes change practicable.”
The first group of participating businesses will embark on the programme in June, with restaurants already signed up including the OXO Tower restaurant in London.
Catherine Marshall, director of communications of Fourth, the software provider which is supporting the programme, said: “Having worked with the industry for over 20 years, we know there is no quick and easy solution to achieving this, but we’re determined to offer guidance to the wider industry on how we can collectively work towards this goal through the smarter use of technology and influencing behavioural change.”