Last chance for London food businesses to face up to food waste

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Small and medium-sized London food businesses have only a month left to take advantage of the largest ever programme to help the capital’s food businesses reduce food waste and save money.

The Mayor of London’s FoodSave programme, which is delivered by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and Sustain, has worked with over 90 businesses in the capital. These businesses together are expected to save a total of more than £300,000 per year, and cut their food and related packaging waste by 259 tonnes (equivalent to 21 double-decker buses), and divert 880 tonnes of surplus food to good causes.

While the FoodSave team is pleased to have made such good progress towards the programme’s targets, it has highlighted that many SMEs are either still unaware of the issue or don’t have the capacity to address it.

Victoria Moorhouse, the SRA’s FoodSave Programme Manager, said: “While we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved running FoodSave, it has also been deeply frustrating to find that large swathes of restaurants, cafes and pubs have turned down the opportunity for this FREE consultancy that would save them money and significantly improve their environmental footprint.”

So far, the SRA has found that a staggering 94% of businesses have turned down the offer of support, with a large proportion of them claiming they don’t have a food waste problem or don’t have time to address it. So far participating restaurants, pubs and cafes will make an average annual saving of nearly £6,000. A number of businesses will save more than £20,000 annually, and one is on track to cut its waste by 7.5 tonnes by working with the team to do a tailored analysis of their food waste using an intelligent set of scales provided by the SRA’s technology partner Winnow. The team provides detailed reports, identifying the problem waste streams and works closely with businesses to create practical solutions.

Sustain is working with retailers (including markets), wholesalers and manufacturers to redistribute food that would otherwise have been wasted. This is now benefiting more than 40 organisations in and around London, which are turning the surplus food into meals for vulnerable people, new products such as juices and soups, or (in the case of products not fit for human consumption) sustainable livestock feed. For example, Sustain has worked with traders at London’s iconic Borough Market, which are now donating up to a tonne of surplus food each month to a number of local charities.

The FoodSave team call on the industry to act now. Moorhouse said: “The project has categorically proved that this is a significant problem and those businesses that have committed time to scrutinise the food waste they are throwing away have experienced rich rewards. Only by measuring their food waste can food business owners, chefs and restaurateurs truly tackle the issue and start to reap the benefits, with lighter bins and a better bottom line. Not only have we been able to identify the true scale of the problem, but we’ve also been able to work with the participating businesses to find practical solutions.”

Kate MacWhirter, owner of The Imperial Arms which saved more than £10,000 and three tonnes of waste, said: “FoodSave has been an eye-opener and has really helped us identify precisely the areas where we were wasting food and enabled us to come up with solutions.”