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4 Ways For Hospitality Businesses To Tackle Plastic And Food Waste

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With no Planet B, every single person has a responsibility to reduce the damage they cause to the environment, as do the businesses who are doing so on a grander scale. However, while many companies are working towards reducing plastic and food waste, more drastic, long-term improvements need to be made. We all need to explore ways to be environmentally conscious.

When it comes to the industries that do the most harm to the planet, the hospitality sector is among the worst offenders. Recently, the Guardian reported that plastic items from takeaways dominate the oceans and over 500,000 tonnes of food waste is created by restaurants, pubs, hotels and fast service restaurants in the UK every year. Although the government banned such establishments from automatically giving out plastic straws in April 2020, this has only scratched the surface of the problem.

Improving your organisation’s sustainability is an easy decision, even more so considering 81% of people favour eco-friendly companies. Here are a few ways your hospitality business can tackle plastic and food waste and help to save the planet.

1. Develop a waste strategy

A waste management strategy will help your business refine its practices and boost its recycling rate. In order to implement one, you first need to assess how much waste you produce and why it’s happening. Conduct a waste audit to evaluate how rubbish is currently managed and disposed of, and what the main types of waste are. This is likely to include items like plastic packaging and leftover food. Focus on reducing waste, reusing and recycling wherever possible within your business operations.

The waste management strategy should detail what to recycle and how, and where. This will also include information on correct disposal procedures, which bins to use and whose responsibility it is to manage it and ensure the waste is put out for collection on time. If items are non-recyclable, employees need to know what to do with them too. Working with a professional waste company can be helpful here. Bywaters, for example, can collect non-recyclable material, such as plastic film, polystyrene, and bubble wrap, and convert it into energy for the National Grid. Aim to share the strategy with all staff members to ensure they have a full understanding of waste protocols, as this will make it easier for your business to reach its sustainability goals.

2. Set targets to improve recycling rates

It’s all well and good having a waste management strategy in place, but it might not be effective if you’re not actively working towards a goal. Set targets using the SMART goal setting model to help encourage your employees to take action, meaning these will be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related. For instance, you might give your business a year to implement correct recycling practices and increase rates by 20%. Start with small objectives — don’t go big before you’ve refined your basic waste practices.

Goals should be shared with everyone, as well as how to measure these and what success looks like for your company, as this will be different from business to business. Many organizations have set bold targets, such as aiming for zero-waste, eliminating single-use plastic, and incorporating biodegradable and recyclable packaging, for example.

3. Invest in environmentally-friendly packaging

Consider your takeaway and delivery containers. Most often, these contain harmful chemicals that humans can easily consume, especially if packaging is heated up at home in the microwave. Switch these for recyclable cardboard and paper alternatives, swap plastic bags for paper ones, and invest in reusable boxes and biodegradable drinks cups.

If you run a pub or bar, there are many companies out there that supply beer kegs made from recycled content, 100% recyclable glass bottles and bag-in-box drink options to reduce packaging waste. Petainer, for example, sells PET kegs that feature recycled components, reduce carbon footprint and eliminate wasted water. Meanwhile, Garçon Wines have refined its packaging to create a compact case which holds ten bottles of wines (rather than just four) and provides 100% recyclable containers. You’ll also benefit financially from using these kinds of products.

4. Improve stock control and handling

Restaurants alone contribute almost 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year, costing them around £682 million annually.  This occurs for several reasons, including overstocking, poor stock control and improper labelling practices. A waste audit will reveal whether food waste is an issue for your own business and why and enable you to go about dealing with it if so.

One way to reduce food waste is to ensure you’re ordering the right amount of ingredients for the dishes you sell day to day. It can be tempting to buy in bulk, but this can leave you with more food than you need. How you store food also plays a part. Make sure fridges and freezers are kept at the correct temperature to avoid spoilage, and implement proper stock rotation practices too, as this ensures staff are using up produce before its use-by-date — this includes correct labelling as well. Be sure to monitor food portions, as often, large amounts are served, and a lot of this ends up in the bin, uneaten. Encourage people to take leftover homes too, and if food waste can’t be avoided, recycle it instead.