25/01/2013 - Restaurants have been called upon by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) to reduce their food waste, after the SRA stated restaurants waste almost five times more food than an average UK household.

Hundreds of restaurants have undertaken efforts to reduce food waste, but, the SRA says, an industry average of almost half a kilo per diner is unacceptable.

Research from the SRA shows that the average restaurant produces 21 tonnes of food waste a year, which works out at 0.48kg per diner per meal. Contrarily, research from WRAP indicates that UK households produce 7.2 million tonnes a year, which equates to 0.1kg per meal.

Managing director of the SRA Mark Linehan said that many restaurants are taking this issue seriously, embracing good kitchen practices, offering smaller portions and encouraging diners to take home leftovers. However, Linehan is of the opinion that wasting half a kilo per diner is unacceptable for business, the environment and customers. The industry as a whole must do more, he says.

“Diners and restaurants need to work together and start equating value with quality rather than quantity. Restaurants should also make diners feel more comfortable about asking, and diners should feel free to ask to take home leftovers from a meal for which they have paid.”

The SRA has its own 'Too Good To Waste' campaign, with the aim of raising both consumer and industry awareness about the appalling scale of restaurant food waste, alongside offering viable alternatives for diners and restaurants:

Thomasina Miers, owner of the Mexican street food restaurant group Wahaca, which was involved in the SRA’s Too Good to Waste campaign, said it had reduced the of amount food waste from diners’ plates by 20 per cent since it started offering customers SRA doggy boxes.

In Portugal, the Menu Dose Certa was launched in 2011 to promote food waste reduction in restaurants and raise awareness. Due to its promising approach, this action has been included in the Pre-waste best practices fact sheets. Have a look yourself to see what they did to combat food waste in restaurants.

22/01/2013 - While ten years ago around 3-4% of all fresh food products would end up as waste in supermarkets, nowadays this number has – partly due to better logistics – been reduced to 1-2%, claims Food Supply Chain Expert Toine Timmermans of Wageningen University.

According to Timmermans, who has been studying the subject for ten years, supermarkets have increased cooperation with suppliers and optimized the supply after initial years of great wastage due to the introduction of ready-made meals and pre-cut vegetables. Other measures that have helped, are the flexible baking of fresh bread during the day (when needed) and increased data collection, the latter allowing for better optimization of orders. Still, Timmermans notes, the current food waste amounts to an economic loss of nearly half a billion Euros.

Raw numbers on supermarket food waste were scarce because of the reluctance of supermarket chains in giving out exact figures. The only supermarket chain handing out data, Albert Heijn (AH), threw away 32 million kg of food in 2011, compared to 31 million kg food in 2008. Despite the slight rise, AH claims to taken several waste prevention measures, such as a “smart order system” and a 35% price reduction on products that are close to their sell-by-date. Several supermarkets said to have agreements with food banks.

Food waste is one of the prime waste streams where succesful waste prevention plans can be implemented. Many of the Pre-waste best practices exposed during the project, such as the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign in North London, address measures to prevent food waste.

15/01/2013 - In Austria, freeganism – the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded – has hit mainstream media through a new reality cooking show, “Waste Cooking”.

Show director David Gross, after being shocked by the food waste he encountered when he first did a “dumpster dive” in January 2012, felt that more people need to understand the consequences of Austria throwing away around 105,000 tons of edible food each year. Therefore, he gathered a group of activists and artists, and started the idea of a reality show on dumpster diving.

In the show, a group of “dumpster divers” set out in search of trash cans specifically designed for organic waste (which is separately collected in Austria since 1995). The collected food - a wide variety of pristine fruits, vegetables, cheese and other foods - is then prepared in a kitchen set up on a public pedestrian thoroughfare by a professional cook, Tobias Judmaier. Passers-by are lured to taste the dish and gauged for their reaction.

The legal status of dumpster diving is often unclear. Dumpster diving per se is often legal, unless specifically prohibited by law, but dumpsters are usually located on private premises, so divers may get in trouble for trespassing.

Although there are more elegant and socially-accepted solutions to the worldwide food waste problem, dumpster diving does raise awareness of all the useful food that is currently thrown away. Pre-waste recognises the importance of awareness campaigns in preventing (food) waste, and has included several awareness campaigns in its selection of Best Practices, such as the successful Love Food, Hate Waste campaign in North London, or the the waste prevention campaign toward shopkeepers and artisans in France.

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