Restaurants Have a Huge Food Waste problem, Could An App Help?

Article by Rebecca Smithers Via The Guardian

Restaurants have a huge food waste problem; could an app help?

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Smart tech from startup Winnow has already helped Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall restaurant reduce waste by a third


One third of all food produced for human consumption isn’t eaten, and the hospitality sector is an important contributor to food waste.

The Winnow System “smart meter” aims to tackle the problem by helping chefs measure and analyse the food they’re putting in the bin. They can use a tablet app to identify the types of food they’re throwing away, and, combined with data collected from an electronic scale, the smart meter can tell them the value of what’s being binned. It’s hoped that an accurate insight into what is being wasted – and the value of that waste – will prompt chefs to improve production processes.

On average, Winnow says, 200 kitchens have cut their food waste in half using the smart meter. One London restaurant, Sam’s Brasserie & Bar, saved more than £5,000 in food costs in just four weeks.

Data from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) estimates that in commercial kitchens, 21% of food waste arises from spoilage, 45% happens during food preparation and 34% comes from customers’ plates. The tablet app can be customised to reflect a restaurant’s menu, so chefs can quickly select the source and type of food that’s ending up in the bin.

One of the biggest challenges for Winnow is overcoming the idea that only poorly run, unprofessional kitchens have food waste, when the reality is that every kitchen does. Even high profile chef and activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his team at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester, were able to reduce waste by a third in just over two months of using the meter.

Founded in 2013, the London-based company has quickly progressed from its pilot programme to working with global brands such as Compass Group and Accord Hotels. Fuelled by pressure mounting on businesses to address food waste, Winnow is now expanding its operations in the UK, Ireland, Norway, China, Singapore and Thailand and China.

Winnow is the 2016 winner of the waste management category of the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards.

Fighting food costs: 13 ways to reduce food waste and better utilize the freezer

Wasted food is wasted money, and it's estimated that as much as 40 percent of the food that's produced in America gets thrown out. Here are 13 tips to help reduce the amount of food that goes into the landfill, including tips for using your freezer to reduce waste.

take action-Fighting-food-costs

Planning, planning, planning: The No. 1 way to reduce food waste is not to buy too much in the first place. That means having a weekly meal plan before you go to the grocery store, and sticking to your grocery list. Side benefits: Planning also saves time, cuts stress, and stretches your food budget.

Flip your fridge and freezer: Once a week, take everything out of your refrigerator and freezer and reshelf items, moving things that were in the back to the front. This will refamiliarize you with leftovers that need to be used up, and frozen items you may have forgotten about. Take this opportunity to wipe down shelves to keep your refrigerator neat and clean-smelling.

Keep track of what's in your refrigerator: Fruit and veggie bins can get unruly. Keep a dry-erase board on the front of your refrigerator listing their contents. Put a star next to items that need to get used up quickly.

Don't obsess over most expiration dates: Those "sell by" and "best by" labels on packaged foods are manufacturer's suggestions for when food will be at its peak, not an indicator of food safety. Many foods will still be good long after the expiration date on the package. Use good judgment with fresh food, though: That yogurt you found in the back of your fridge that expired in 2014? Best to toss that out!

Cook the whole vegetable: When you buy carrots and beets, get them with the tops on, which can be used to make broth, or as flavorful additions to soup. Don't toss broccoli stalk or kale stems, which make great additions to stir-fries.

Saving vegetable scraps to make broth Grant Butler explains how you can reduce kitchen waste and save money by freezing vegetable scraps to eventually turn into homemade broth.

Save vegetable scraps to make veggie broth: Save carrot peels, onion skins, romaine ribs, stems from fresh herbs and other vegetable scraps to make a flavorful broth. Just store them in a freezer bag. When the bag is full, it's time to make broth. And when you're done, those spent scraps can be tossed onto the compost pile.

Save water from steaming: Don't dump out the water used to steam vegetables. Store it in the refrigerator in a glass jar and use to jumpstart homemade broth at the end of the week.

Make herb butter: Extend the life of fresh herbs by chopping them finely and mixing them with softened butter, then freezing the mixture. Use this butter to add flavor to baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, grilled meats, even popcorn.

Save the crumbs: When you slice crusty artisan bread, crumbs are inevitable. Instead of tossing them, store them in a freezer bag until you need them to top a casserole or to coat meat or fish. The same goes for crumbs from crackers and chips.

Make croutons: Stale bread? Turn it into croutons by tossing with a little olive oil, dried herbs and kosher salt, then baking at 350 degrees until crispy and golden. When cool, store in an air-tight zipper bag to toss on salads or soup.

Put ice cube trays to work: Ice cube trays can be used to freeze small portions of all sorts of leftovers: individual portions of pesto; leftover wine, which can be used in cooking; leftover coffee, which can be used to make coffee ice cubes for undiluted iced coffee. Just pour into ice cube trays, and transfer them to a labeled freezer bag when they're frozen.

Freeze extra fresh fruit: More melons and berries than you can use? Cut them into pieces, spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. Then transfer them to a labeled freezer bags for use in smoothies or baked goods. Have bananas that are starting to turn brown? Peel and freeze them for future smoothies or banana bread.

Even with the best meal planning, some food waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing eggshells, coffee grounds and other food waste into the trash, utilize the city's composting program or start your own backyard compost pile. Don't forget to compost: Even with the best planning, some kitchen waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing coffee grounds and vegetable scraps into the trash, do the Earth-friendly thing and toss them onto your backyard compost pile.

Don't forget to compost: Even with the best planning, some kitchen waste is inevitable. Instead of throwing coffee grounds and vegetable scraps into the trash, do the Earth-friendly thing and toss them onto your backyard compost pile.

Environmental Impact of Food Waste in the US

  • Each time food is wasted all the resources that went into producing, processing, packaging, and transporting that food is wasted too. This means huge amounts of chemicals, energy, fertilizer, land and 25% of all freshwater in the U.S. is used to produce food that is thrown away.
  • Additionally, most uneaten food rots in landfills where it accounts for almost 25% of U.S. methane emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful to the environment than CO2.
  • Getting food to our tables uses 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land,and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States.
  • Only about 3% of food scraps in the U.S. are composted.
  • About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.
  • 14 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food.

Water Comparison

Freshwater is a global resource that is depleting whenever food is wasted. Have a look at these facts about water usage in the production of commonly bought— and in many cases wasted-food items.

  • It takes over 12,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Meanwhile, the largest percentage of food waste from the average American consists of meat products, and 33% ends up in a landfill.
  • The production of one glass of orange juice requires 45 gallons of water. 15% of wasted food from the average American consists of fruit.
  • Wheat consumes about 12 % of the global water use for crop production.
  • Americans waste about 18% of grains.

Global Food Waste

  • About one third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
  • Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food, 222 million tons, as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Industrialized countries waste 670 million tonnes. Developing countries lose 630 million tonnes. Total lost or wasted globally: 2.3 billion tonnes.
  • The United States is the number one country in the world that wastes food. Close behind are Australia and Denmark, followed by Switzerland and Canada.

Definition of Food Loss and Waste

Under the Save Food initiative of which Think Eat Save is an important component, FAO, UNEP and stakeholders have agreed the following definition of food loss and waste.

  1. Food loss refers to a decrease in quantity or quality of food. Food Loss inthe production and distribution segments of the food supply chain is mainly caused by the functioning of the food production and supply system or its institutional and legal framework.
  2. Animportant part of food loss is called foodwaste, which refers to the removal of food from the food supply chain which is fit for consumption, or which has spoiled or expired, mainly caused by economic behaviour, poor stock management or neglect.

Please click here for the full Definitional Framework of Food Loss.

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