An enormous amount of food is wasted unnecessarily in Canada, to the tune of $27.7 billion dollars each year. The majority of food waste – about 50% – occurs at the consumer level. However, foodservice is still responsible for about 10% of the food that’s thrown away daily -that’s about $2.2 billion dollars of edible nourishment that ends up as trash each year.
Excess waste causes unnecessary expense to foodservice establishments and wreaks havoc on the environment: landfills are overtaxed and heaps of harmful greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere each day.
The main causes of waste in foodservice outlets are improper inventory, excessive caution over best-before dates, overproducing food, throwing away leftovers and improper storage.
The good news is that waste is a controllable expense. With proper purchasing, better handling and careful storage, foodservice establishments can reduce waste and save money. Here are some tips:
- Control inventory. Check the refrigerators and freezers before you place food orders to see what’s on-hand. Rotate perishable stock at every delivery to minimize waste due to spoilage. Arrange your refrigerator to facilitate easy product access and rotation.
- Think ahead: How can today’s grilled eggplant be useful tomorrow? Instead of throwing away leftovers, consider how they can be integrated into a new recipe. For example, eggplant can be used as a pizza topping or in lasagne.
- Donate: Many large cities have food rescue programs to feed people in need. For example, Toronto’s Second Harvest picks up donated, excess food which would otherwise go to waste, and delivers it to over 200 community agencies in the Greater Toronto Area. If there is no food rescue program in your area, try contacting livestock farmers or zookeepers, who use leftovers as animal feed.
- Be creative with whole food: From beet greens to broccoli stems to watermelon rinds, many edible parts of food are wasted. Before you toss scraps away, do some research and see how they can be used. For example, watermelon rind and broccoli stems are both excellent in stir-fries.
- Check before you toss: sometimes “best before” is not a food safety date, it’s a sell-by date. Foods that are past their best before date may not need to be tossed. Learn more at www.stilltasty.com.
- Save those veggies: Store raw vegetables in airtight containers to prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage. Hydrate wilted vegetables by trimming off the bottom and immersing in 100°F water for 20 minutes. Buy frozen vegetables if you find fresh ones rot too often.
Make an effort to keep green organic waste out of the garbage. Place composting bins next to all garbage and recycling bins for easy disposal – for staff and customers. Then, establish an organics collection program that meets your needs.
You can contract a local hauler, or begin an on-site composting system. Composting is nature’s way of recycling and reducing the amount of waste headed to landfills – it turns organic food material into a soil-like product called humus. Bonus: humus improves the texture and fertility of soil, so the compost can be used to feed indoor plants throughout the establishment or to enrich the grounds around the work place… or at home.
If you do not have a compost program in place, make it a priority. As much as 60% of your establishment’s garbage can be composted! Plus, separating organics from regular waste leads to fewer and safer landfills, reduction in landfill run-off, less methane (a global warming gas), as well as a valuable end-product to enhance the soil.