It is an unpalatable fact that a third of all food worldwide is wasted, while in the EU, approximately 88 million tonnes of food waste is generated every year.
When you consider that 33 million people cannot afford the basic human right of a quality meal every other day, understanding the impact of food waste and its effect on the environment becomes increasingly harder to swallow.
While the hospitality sector plays a key role in contributing to this waste, which depletes the environment of natural resources, it is carving many pathways to mitigate this through innovation and collaboration.
EU households generate more than half of the total food waste in the EU (47 million tonnes) with 70 per cent of food waste coming from households, food services and retail, according to a FUSIONS report called ‘Recommendations and guidelines for a common European food waste policy framework’. FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) was a food waste reduction project between 2012-2016, funded by the European Commission Framework Programme 7, which worked toward a more resource-efficient Europe.
Wasting food not only creates ethical and economic issues but also drains the environment’s limited natural resources. The EU has pledged to meet the Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030 and is also working to reduce food loss along the food production and supply chains.
According to the Future of Good Report, an estimated 86 per cent of people expect brands to play their part in solving climate change and so the hospitality sector is pulling up its socks in order to rise to the challenge.
One such organisation, the Accor hotel group, has been focussing efforts on innovation to drive less wasteful consumption in three priority impact areas: food waste, healthy food and local sourcing.
With food and drinks representing 11 per cent of the hotel chain’s carbon emissions, it is the largest source of carbon emissions after energy. The group’s Healthy and Sustainable Food Charter was launched to galvanize Accor’s environmental commitment which covers animal welfare, certified eco-farm products and prioritizing local supplies. It implemented at least half of its commitments in 70 per cent of its hotels by the end of 2021.
The chain is testing solutions, striking up partnerships and implementing pioneering measures against food waste. One such course of action is cutting-edge AI analysis for tackling food waste, the brainchild of Orbisk, to make the world’s food system more sustainable.
Dutch start-up Orbisk pilots food waste monitoring using AI and believes restaurants can make savings of up to 50 per cent of food per year by tackling leftovers. So far, Orbisk has saved 130,000kg of food waste and hospitality staff do not need training to use the monitor.
Two Accor hotels in the Netherlands are currently being monitored by Orbisk, via its automated AI system called Orbi, which weighs and scans everything discarded by kitchen staff. This data enables chefs to adapt menus accordingly which can save up to thousands of kilos of food annually.
Floris Licht, General Manager Novotel Amsterdam Schipol Airport, said: “The Orbisk monitor has so far helped us to reduce between 15-25 per cent of food waste, it has really made a positive impact.”
The Student Hotel (TSH) is another hotel group using the Orbisk innovation to monitor food waste, having installed the waste monitor at its Amsterdam City hotel, to determine what is wasted and when. The aim is to look at the behaviour when wasting food and act accordingly to lessen the waste, with the results of the scans at TSH supporting plans to switch from breakfast buffet to a la carte to lower the impact.
TSH Delft has reduced the number of ingredients it is working with from 700 to 350 and is making different dishes with the same ingredients to reduce the risk of wasting unused items.
Out of the worldwide food waste (1.3 billion tonnes of food), 26 per cent comes from the foodservice industry (catering, hotels and restaurants) and besides AI technology, simple apps such as Too Good To Go are successful in connecting citizens with restaurants or merchants to purchase unused products cheaply.
Unused food can also be repurposed with a little forward-thinking. Accor makes marmalade from the peel of oranges used for breakfast juice at one of its hotels, for example, while another initiative turns unconsumed milk into cheese.
Marriott International finalised a Leanpath pilot (a digital food waste tracking solution) at 10 of its hotels across Europe in 2019, which resulted in a 64 per cent reduction in annualised food waste generation over four months.
All these impactful efforts make food waste within the hospitality sector a little easier to digest, knowing that behaviours and habits are changing and evolving for the better. But momentum must continue at the right pace.
Harco Leertouwer, Managing Director – Europe at Acre, said: “It is encouraging to see that, whilst the hospitality and travel sectors have not exactly been leading the change to become more sustainable, a lot of organisations are taking over the baton and doing their part in becoming more sustainable.
About 6-8 per cent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stop wasting food and leading hospitality organisations have to have a leading role in minimising the impact that their industry has.
“Preventive measures such as more sustainable menus, smaller portions options, better and local procurement and reducing the number of menu items and ingredients used are non-negotiable these days. Recycling and up-cycling is the next step and we are excited to see how other innovative start-ups will support this transition.”
Harco J. Leertouwer leads the team responsible for the business in Continental Europe and is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Harco brings in a wealth of executive search and international business growth experience, having been a Director of Michael Page in Germany and Managing Director for Badenoch & Clark Germany and the Netherlands. Before joining Acre, Harco set up his own executive search boutique, focusing on Sustainability, Renewable Energy and Clean Technology.