The UK food and hospitality sectors saw increasing amounts of food pile up when the second phase of lockdown restrictions were imposed in early November. This was a bit of a shocker as in mid-2020, WRAP reported a 34% wastage reduction in households when it came to four essential items, i.e., bread, milk, chicken, and potatoes.
However, it is important to note one thing: there was already a considerable amount of waste at the start of the lockdown in April 2020, with takeaway businesses discarding about £148 worth of food each week as food supply chains were disrupted.
Due to the second lockdown, the industry’s total cost was about £16.7 million, and with worsening numbers come additional environmental and financial consequences as much of the wasted food has ended up in landfill.
Moreover, BusinessWaste.co.uk estimated that about 920,000 tons of food waste is generated by the hospitality sector in Britain every year; about 75% of that they consider to be avoidable.
Positive initiatives for better food waste management during the pandemic
Food waste charity WRAP, which assists businesses with food waste management through online learning and tools to measure waste, has also mentioned time and again that the lockdown restrictions should compel food service businesses to adapt.
On a positive note, it stated that their work with the government directly helped provide new guidance for surplus food redistribution and that apps such as Olio and Too Good To Go had contributed significantly towards this redistribution of food business surplus which delivered significant waste reduction.
2. British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF)
At the same time, BFFF are optimistic that concerns about food waste during lockdown will assist the growth of the frozen food category, with sales of frozen food going up by £221 million in just three months.
In particular, grocery suppliers must freeze seasonal products in the weeks before Christmas so that less of them go to waste.
Given pandemic restrictions, fewer people will be hosting Christmas dinners than usual, which means that even more food is likely to go to waste, particularly items with a short shelf life, such as vegetables and meat products.
Even in the pre-COVID times, the food waste around Christmas time is considerable, with about two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings, and 74 million mince pies getting thrown out annually. This year, BFFF urged grocery businesses to freeze their products and sell more frozen foods to keep the waste to minimum amounts.
Lockdown2 changes the sentiment towards food waste in the UK
The warnings about food waste come amidst growing concern about the environment among consumers.
- About a third of UK households have gone greener since the lockdown began, according to Princes Fish, with more efforts to use less electricity and water and to recycle more. They also found that 27% of households have cut back on food waste, and 28% have been cooking meals from scratch.
- According to Bureau Veritas, increasing consumer awareness about food waste and food security puts the onus on hospitality and food businesses to step up their waste management strategy. While the initial consumer response to the lockdown was to stockpile supermarket goods, they have become increasingly aware of the importance of using food wisely and their role in doing so.
- On the commercial side, businesses have moved towards a leaner supply chain to minimise food wastage and prevent excessive surplus stocks.
WRAP also pointed out that consumers are not as engaged with food waste reduction as they ought to be. Their numbers indicate that 70% of the 9.5 million tonnes of food wasted in Britain every year come from households, of which 4.5 million tonnes were still edible.
Plus, according to its estimates, while 81% of UK residents express concern about climate change, less than 30% see a link between climate change and food waste.
Therefore, businesses need to engage in smart food waste management practices to save money and convert food waste into a valuable resource. One of the ways is via Anaerobic Digestion (AD) technology, which refers to the process in which organic waste is converted to Bio-Gas which in turn is utilised to generate renewable energy in the form of electricity & heat.
This is an excellent way for the food manufacturers, F&B and the hospitality sector to dispose of their food waste sustainably whilst reducing the greenhouse effect.
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