Saving food, saving money, saving waste
Food waste is a major problem, with an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of waste per year in the UK. Householders are encouraged to reduce food waste by buying less, shopping more frequently so that food does not spoil, and making use of freezing or other methods of preservation. But what about commercial kitchens? How can they play a part in tackling food waste, and why is it a benefit to them as well as the planet?
Residential kitchens are normally only used for the preparation of food for one family or household. Commercial kitchens need to cater on much larger scales, even though they come in a variety of sizes and locations. A commercial kitchen might be the meal preparation area of a pub or restaurant, or the cooking facility for a hospital, school, or large workplace. It may be a food production facility that creates specific types of food such as condiments or ready meals.
Any food preparation process will create some waste. And any business, whether food-related or otherwise, has a legal duty of care to dispose of their waste in accordance with regulations. There are many other regulations that apply to commercial food preparation, including food safety, general health and safety, and employment laws.
To reduce wasted food, commercial kitchens need to implement a number of measures. To begin with, exercising tight portion control, makes it possible to purchase only the amount of food needed for a specific number of meals. In some cases, such as a school kitchen, the number of meals required will be established in advance. For a restaurant this is less predictable, with both the number of customers and their menu choices open to some degree of chance. Nevertheless, experienced restaurateurs will be able to predict certain patterns of demand.
Another buying activity that helps to reduce waste is to check sell-by dates, particularly on dry goods. These types of food items can have long shelf lives, but it is worth making sure that the sell by date is far enough ahead that half the container won’t end up being wasted. Commercial kitchens often buy these items in bulk, which is a false economy if they don’t have the turnover to use it all in time.
Once a purchasing system is in place to avoid excess food being ordered, food storage then becomes important. This includes temperature and humidity controls to prolong the shelf life of all ingredients, and strict stock rotation to ensure oldest stock is used first.
Where the business sells hot foods to its customers then food should only be prepared to order, and not left sitting around after cooking. Food service needs to be prompt to move the food from kitchen to customer as quickly as possible for food hygiene reasons. Any food that is left too long has to be disposed of to protect the customer. This type of food waste is costly and avoidable.
Growing, storing, transporting, and processing food all require energy and water. These activities impact the world through, for example, clearing trees to grow crops, burning fossil fuels, diverting water supplies. If food is produced and then wasted, it represents a waste of these resources.
When a business buys any raw material for manufacturing, they need to make the best use of it to protect their profitability. Food is both the raw material and the finished product, so needs to be treated with the same financial respect as any other product from any other bsuiness.
By reducing food waste a commercial kitchen is not only being more environmentally friendly, but also demonstrating good business practice.
Non-food waste in a commercial kitchen
Food is not the only kind of waste in commercial kitchens. Other waste will include packaging materials such as paper and carboard, tins, plastic containers, and possibly glass jars. Worn or damaged kitchen utensils and equipment such as knives, chopping boards or spatulas which will include plastic, metal, glass or wood will need to be disposed of.
In commercial kitchens the same rules apply as to any other business. Government regulations state that waste must be prevented, reused, recycled or recovered in that order.
To reduce the amount of waste produced, consideration needs to be given to how products are bought. Where possible, minimise the amount of packaging being used. This may mean buying in larger quantities, or buying from suppliers who use the minimum necessary packaging, with an emphasis on containers that can be reused or recycled.
Any utensils or equipment that are damaged need to be replaced immediately for food safety reasons. The employees in a commercial kitchen should be encouraged to take care of these items to prolong their usefulness as long as possible. Investing in best quality products helps, and will normally recoup the investment over time.
All waste must be stored and disposed of appropriately. Food waste must be removed from a food preparation area as quickly as possible, and must be put into closed containers to avoid attracting pests into the kitchen.
Fats and oils must also be disposed of correctly, and should be collected by an Environmental Agency licensed carrier.
Business owners can choose to handle the disposal themselves, in which case they must register with their local waste handling site, and ensure they have appropriate storage and transport facilities, as well as handling the paperwork requirements.
The majority of businesses opt for a waste solution managed by a specialist company. They will be able to advise on suitable size bins for the size of the business, provide the right mix of different bins for different purposes, arrange regular collections and deal with all the paperwork required to prove the bsuiiness has handled its waste in accordance with regulations.
The business owner has a responsibility to ensure they use a licensed carrier for all their waste needs. Failure to handle waste responsibly can result in heavy penalties.
If you are looking for more detailed advice, or a professional waste management service in the UK, we can help you.
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