Food & Water

Food Surplus & Waste

Surplus is good food that can still be eaten, while food waste refers to inedible organic matter, like orange peel, that can’t be consumed. 

WRAP’s Food Surplus and Waste in the UK 2020 report found that annual food waste (not including farming waste) had a value of over £19 billion a year. In 2020-2021 around £43 billion was provisioned for primary and secondary education in England. Almost half of this budget was effectively thrown away!

70% of this was surplus that could still have been eaten and was the equivalent of every person in the UK throwing away a 10” pizza once a day! That’s 68 million pizzas a day going straight in the bin.

This wasted surplus food could have fed every person in the UK three meals a day for almost two weeks. When we consider that approximately 2.5 million people in the UK in 2020 used a food bank this really is an enormous waste!

In areas without food waste collection schemes, all that surplus food heads to landfill sites and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, and a major contributor to climate change.

Get ideas for taking action below or benchmark your progress.

What we can do...

1. Root to Shoot

Request and design menus that use as much of a product as possible.

Using the whole of a produce and as efficiently as possible – known as root to shoot practices ensures less food is being thrown away in the preparation stage.

Think skin on chips, carrot top pesto or cutting a lemon into more slices to go from garnishing 8 to garnishing 12 drinks!



2. Pre-Order

Ask guests and crew to pre-order meals.

This helps you know exactly what to prepare, which helps you save money too. Plus you can provide positive education by communicating why you’re incorporating this.

Pre-ordering has become more standard practice due to Covid security and can be carried forward into ‘normal’ event planning as restrictions ease.

Tying it into dietary requirement notifications for pre-event registration is another great way to capture this information.

3. Stay away from the buffet!

According to an American study on hotel buffets, just over half of a buffet is actually consumed with the rest going to waste.

Where a buffet is the only option, catering staff plating up food with set portion guidance will reduce waste when eyes are bigger than stomachs!

4. Portion control

What ways can we save food from going to waste from the plate? Could you:

– offer diners ‘small’ or ‘large’ plate options to cater for the size of an appetite.
– reduce portion sizes by 20% and let guests know that they can ask for seconds
– ask pre-ordering guests to choose their appetite – ‘hungry’ for a large plate or ‘just a bite’ for a small one.

5. Donate good to eat food

Alongside pre-ordering and good portioning, partner with food redistribution organisations like Olio, FareShare and City Harvest (London) to redistribute surplus.

This keeps food from waste streams and creates a positive social impact.

6. Avoid over ordering

No one wants an attendee to go hungry, but avoid over-ordering from fear of running out.

Pre-ordering meals and accounting for drop out rates should help to ensure that everyone is fed and avoid surplus that will go to waste.

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