Every year, 475 pounds of food waste is produced by the average person adding up to more than 70 million tons in our landfills. Not only does the waste attract vermin, it emits odors and liquids that are toxic to the environment. As a result, the methane gas generated from the waste is 20 to 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste has become a big issue in all types of businesses.
This is especially true in the hospitality industry. Haute cuisine, all you can eat buffets, and in room dining are all an integral part of the hospitality experience. But what happens to all the leftovers once guests are done eating? Most of it will be hauled off to landfills at a great cost to the establishment and an even greater cost to the environment.
Our report will look at and provide statistics on the consequences of food wastage, opportunities for improvement and the positive impact making a change can have in our city. We’ll also evaluate the systems and procedures hotels are currently using to fight this ongoing issue. By recycling and composting food scraps it will not only help to reduce the amount of green house gases and improve our air quality, but it would increase profit margins, raise environmental rating levels and make a change for a greener hospitality industry while creating awareness in our community and sensitive environment.
Understanding the Impact
There are many ways that food waste affects the environment. Understanding the effects is the first step in helping to make a difference. Firstly, there is production. The production of food is very costly to the environment just by itself. Large amounts of land are cleared for plants and crops to grow and be able to feed a country. The land, once part of the ecosystem, is now replaced with acres of production facilities. The damage doesn’t stop there, as fertilizers and pesticides are used to assist in the growing process. Though there may not be any sort of immediate impact on the land, a accumulation of farming years will lead to the long term poisoning and harm of the soil and water systems.
Secondly, the waste created during production and consumption will need to be disposed of in some sort of way. The breaking down of these food scraps results in the production of methane gas, a harmful contributor to global warming. In addition, producing food waste impacts the world’s water resources. Because it incurs in the use of chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn reduces the positive aspects of chemical fertilizer use. These chemicals can get into the water supply and can lower the quality of the water. Another way it can be damaging the world’s water supply is through irrigation methods. Irrigation requires that water be moved from natural sources, such as rivers and lakes, to areas where water isn’t naturally found. By creating irrigation ditches and using it to spray over crops, we are depleting these natural water resources. This causes a reduction in the primary resource that several animals depend on to stay alive. Taking away this vital resource from them puts them at risk for survival and will evidently destroy their natural habitats.
40% of all landfill content comes from food waste
Currently only 3% of food waste is recycled
Food waste generates methane gas which is 20-25% more potent than CO2
About 20% of Canada’s methane emissions (a greenhouse gas that traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide) come from landfills
Canadians waste approximately 40% of perfectly edible food, which amounts to about $27 billion worth a year
The Hospitality industry accounts for 8% of all food waste in Canada (51% from Households, Everything starts at home! If you are careful with your own food waste, you will be more careful at work as well!)
Currently, less that 3% of the more than 30 million tons of organic waste produced annually gets recycled. For commercial food processors who deal with large quantities of food waste, the problem is multiplied.
Waste and Hotels
When staying at hotels, the average guest will produce 1 kilogram of waste per night of stay. Multiply that by the number of hotels and guests around the world and the total amount of waste is overwhelming. One should also take into account the necessary space this all needs for storing and sorting. Not an easy task to deal with, considering how some hotels are situated in a busy city centre, where space is limited. During the design and construction phase of hotels, the majority of space is usually allocated to public and guest areas including the lobby, restaurants, banquet halls, a health club and the gardens. As a result, the small remaining areas are left for back of house staff to dispose and sort waste. Adding to this, is the consideration of health and safety and the noise created when compacting and collecting.
Costs are another huge factor for hotels. This is because they generally pay twice for waste – once for the packaging and initial delivery and again for the disposal and pickup process. From a business perspective, it makes sense for hotels to create as little waste as possible or develop recycling procedures to keep the waste on property. It would help to reduce costs and benefit the environment at the same time.
Identifying the issue and taking the initiative to make changes is the hotel’s first step in helping to reduce food waste. The next step is to develop and put in place systems that will be beneficial to both the hotel and the environment. A system could be something as simple as allocating appropriate bins for plastics, food, paper and food scraps in all departments to help with the collection and disposal process.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim, in downtown Vancouver, utilizes such as system in all of their departments, on each floor of the hotel and in the colleague dining room. All waste is collected at the end of each day where it is taken down to a designated area near the loading dock for sorting and compacting. Colour coded bins are used to help with the separation of all the hotel’s recyclable items. These categories and designated bins include food waste, grease, paper packaging, paper, plastics, glass, electronics, light bulbs, and trash. From there, food scraps are composted and kitchen grease is recycled. Both are then collected by outsourced companies to be used as fertilizer and animal feed. Once a month, the hotel’s Environmental Committee conduct an audit of various floors to see if proper recycling procedures are followed. They inspect all bins and provide a report to the departments needing attention while awarding the others with prizes for their commitment.
The Hyatt Regency Princeton in New Jersey is another example, of a hotel that has taken initiative against food wastage. In 2009, the hotel was able to save over $10,000 by having 131 tons of food scraps composted instead of sending it to the landfill. Further analyzing those numbers, $7600 was from keeping the food out of the trash and the remaining $2400 was saved from reducing the number of trash compactor pulls. In the kitchen, the Hyatt Regency also began storing leftover cooking grease, selling it off to Mopac, a company responsible for recycling it for animal feed.
At other hotels such as the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, vegetable waste and coffee grounds are composted on the hotel rooftop garden to grow organic basil. The remaining amount, some 1000 kg of food waste, is collected from the hotel by an outsourced company, is sterilized and then turned into fertilizer.
Other Case Studies & Stories
Le Chateau Montebello – Quebec, Canada
Constructed a composting site, which will be used to fertilize and mulch its herb garden.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver – British Columbia, Canada
The culinary team sends leftover food to the Vancouver Food Runner Program, which serves the leftover food to people in need. On average, 1 ton of food is donated every three months.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – Alberta, Canada
The hotel purchased a biodiesel refinery unit to convert unusable oil products in the kitchen into biodiesel, to help fuel garden equipment and the hotel’s two shuttle buses. The hotel is now able to recycle more than 130,000 kg of used cooking oils every year.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn – California, USA
The hotel partnered up with the Sonoma Worm Farm to build a Worm Bin on the hotel site to divert organic waste from its kitchens and to also supply its landscape with a sustainable fertilizer. The worm bins are able to divert approximately 8 pounds of waste every week.
Jai Mahal Palace – Jaipur, India
The hotel operates an onsite biogas plant, which guests are welcome to tour. It is fed by the hotel’s kitchen scraps, leftover food and garden waste.
Hilton Stockholm Slussen – Sweden
The hotel sends its organic waste to a biogas plant where it is turned into biogas to help fuel the hotel’s company cars.
Developing New Habits
Focus Your Attention on Reducing Waste
Though lots of attention and encouragement has been given to composting and donating leftover food, the first step we can take is to reduce the amount of food produced. Reducing food portions will help immensely and play an important role lessening the waste. According to The Center of Disease Control, restaurant portions today are four times larger than they were in the 1950s.
Using Food Inventory Techniques to Reduce Waste (Sharpening Your Food Storing Techniques)
Not only is it a good cost control measure to do an inventory of all of your food products, but it will also ensure that perishable food does not go bad before you get to use it. By putting in place and respecting an organized inventory process, waste of easily perishable food can go down. This will also help in reducing food costs greatly.
Composting and Donating Edible Food
Several hotels these days have their own composting systems already in place, which is making a great difference. In regards to the donating of leftover food however, there are still lots to be concerned about with respect to the potential liability. Regulations are different in each province across Canada. An organization, known as “Imagine Canada”, provides a lists of legislation approved charities that provide links to provincial regulations regarding this matter. Many of the charities are reputable partners and help to ensure that food meets safety standards, such as the transportation of food in refrigerated vehicles.
Carbon and Water Intensive Foods
Some foods, such as dairy and beef, require large amounts of energy and water in order to be produced. When leftovers or dated amounts are thrown away, food waste issues are compounded. Closely monitor the disposal of these particular items, as they are also high cost items and would help to save profits in the long run.
Working With Suppliers and Vendors
Hotels can make another impact on reducing food waste by meeting with vendors and telling them about their commitment to the cause. Special ingredients could be substituted for alternatives to keep food costs low and waste to a minimum.
Train Your Staff and Make Them Part of the Plan
Train all your current employees so that they can be an integral part of your plan. Training and orientation packages can be included when on boarding any new employee. Make food waste reduction a part of their job description.
Technology and Conversion of Food Waste
It is well known that food waste is one of the single largest constituent of municipal solid waste stream. Diversion of food waste from landfills can easily provide significant contribution towards climate change mitigation, as well as generating revenues and creating employment opportunities. The rising energy prices and increasing environmental pollution make it more important to harness renewable energy from food waste. Studies have shown that food waste holds the highest potential in terms of economic exploitation as it contains high amount of carbon and can be efficiently converted into biogas and organic fertilizer.
Glenn Hasek, of greenbiz.com presented different companies who have developed new technology in regards to food waste reduction and conversion. These companies have developed what are called “Decomposition Machines”, which are available in different sizes, and have the advantage of reducing both the amount of waste being sent to the landfill, as well as reducing the costs related to hauling the food waste to a recycling facility.
These machines also bring forth additional benefits to the environment, by having fewer trucks on the road, which would usually haul the waste from the hotel or restaurant, to the landfill, as well as reducing the methane level present in the landfills, since there is less waste going there.
Although these machines can be pricey, they can, with frequent use, pay for themselves within three to five years, with the added bonus of helping to reduce greenhouse gases in the environment.
One of the companies, Somat, produces a system called eCorect, which has been used by the Marriot South Bay, in Torrence California since 2008. The smallest system they produce can handle up to 100 pounds per cycle, while their largest system can manage 2,000 pounds per cycle. In less than a 24 hour period, the system removes about 90 percent of the food waste’s weight and volume. The leftovers are a dry product that can be added to soil, as a potent fertilizer. The eCorect systems also include an odor control system. This allows the system to be placed close to the source of the waste. If the hotel or restaurant using this machine chooses to dispose of the leftover waste, it is still a huge improvement, as only 10% of the original amount of waste will be sent to the landfill.
The assistant general manager at the Marriot South Bay, in Torrence California, Silvano Merlo, said that instead of having to throw away 220 pounds of food waste at the end of the day, his staff throws away just 22 pounds.
Another company, BioHitech America Inc., of Montvale, N.J., produces a system that uses a highly refined formula of micro-organisms to break down organic waste into a liquid which can then be safely disposed of down the drain, completely eliminating the waste. These machines require a hot and cold water supply and a two-inch drain to connect to the machine. The drain pipe from the machine drains into the floor sink. These machines come in different sizes as well.
The Seaport Hotel in Boston has been using a BioX machine from BioHitech America since April 2007. The machine can process up to 800 pounds in 24 hours.
The Director of rooms and environmental programs at the Seaport, Matthew Moore, states that the hotel has been processing just shy of 300 pounds of food waste a day. That number had been larger, but training in how not to waste earlier in the waste stream has helped reduce overall waste flow to the machine.
Moore says that thanks to the machine and other recycling efforts, the hotel has reduced its dumpster pick-ups from nine per month, to four.
Sharing the Plan
There are several ways, both at home and at work, one can help to reduce the amount of food waste that is sent to landfills. Working together with family and colleagues, the results can have a huge impact on our environment. Here are some ways we as a society can put a plan into motion and help with the ongoing fight to diminish food waste.
On the Home Front:
Eat your leftovers, which in turn will help to reduce excess amounts in waste
Start a backyard compost bin or worm composting bin to turn into soil and use in the yard and garden
If your city offers the collection food waste, ensure that your bins at home or carefully sorted and ready for pick up. If there are too many other elements mixed in with the food bin (i.e. plastics, paper, glass), the bin will treated as trash and get taken to the landfill
Encourage restaurants, malls, community centers and supermarkets to start and develop composting programs
Reduce over purchasing food and groceries
Preventing food waste before it is even created
Feeding safe, fresh food scraps to animals like pig farms
On the Job & Especially in Hotels:
Hold workshops with various environmental waste management companies to further educate hotel staff and committee members
Form an environmental committee with representatives from each department. The committee could also get involved with other community initiatives such as water consumption, recycling, or shoreline cleanups
Incorporate information and policies into training and hotel orientations
Get management involved, leading by example and making the reduction of food waste a priority
Ask if the restaurant you are at has a food waste program or they compost
Order only what you can eat
Ask your employer what type of waste program they have. If they don’t have one, suggest a method of separating and collecting food waste in separate bins from regular garbage and recyclables
Conduct audits of various areas of a hotel to see if proper recycling procedures are being followed
Change serving sizes and garnishes
Donating fresh, wholesome food to those in need
Rendering fats, oils, and grease and turning it into products or biofuel
Turning food waste into renewable energy and a valuable soil amendment
- Reduce the Amount of Methane in Landfills – When food is thrown in with the landfill, it rots and eventually becomes a major source of methane gas.
- Reduce the Amount of Resources Used in the Production of Food – Water, fertilizers, pesticides and energy are all major resources used in production. By wasting food, we are also wasting these resources. 14% of greenhouse gases are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting and disposing of food. By reducing wasted food, we are able to help reduce greenhouse gas emission.
- Creating Soil – composting food and turning it into healthy soil increases its drought resistance, and reduces the need for water fertilizers and pesticides. Waste can also be turned into renewable energy such as biogas.
- Improve Sanitation – Food waste thrown in trash cans and dumpsters can lead to bad odours and attract rodents and insects. By placing these food scraps in closed, leak proof, durable,
- Lower Disposal Costs – By decreasing the amount of food wasted, hotels will pay less for the disposal process of their trash. Some waste management companies will charge less if food waste is separated from the regular trash and sent for composting instead of the landfill. The same goes for other items such as plastics, paper, paper packaging and glass.
- Reduce Over Purchasing and Labour Costs – By preventing food waste, hotels will reduce their costs by purchasing only the food they will be used. It can also help to increase staff efficiency and reduce the amount of energy and labour associated with the disposal process.
- Tax Benefits – Hotels and other companies receive tax credits by donating wholesome and edible food to food banks and other organizations.
- Help the Hungry – Based on the Canadian Community Health Survey taken in 2004, 9% or 2.7 million Canadians are considered “food insecure”. This means that they are not able to provide a sufficient meal for themselves or their families on a regular basis. Organizations can donate safe and healthy food to food banks so they can simultaneously help reduce food sent to landfills and feed those in need.
The sensitivity to our environment both currently and in the future, is defined by how we as individuals and businesses make decisions. The output of waste within our communities is growing at an alarming rate. The reality of our landfills, as described in our research findings, suggest that 40% of the accumulated waste is brought on by food, which has been wasted rather than composted and recycled. Our findings also conclude that the trickle effect of the food waste also emits 20%-25% of carbon dioxide, which is a contributor to global warming. Our emphasis through this report was directed at the hospitality sector, more importantly the hotel segment. Over time, the hotel industry has become educated with the growing concern for a more sustainable environment and has taken steps to do their part in ensuring the longevity of our future and their continued business success. Partnerships with environmental organizations have assisted hotel properties to reduce waste consumption while contributing to their communities. Recycling and composting techniques have done much more than reduce the amount of waste in our landfills. In fact they bring environmental, economic, social and financial benefits to the industry. Reducing food waste increases sources of renewable, clean energy and compost while creating green jobs. The nature, awareness and popularity of recycling has had a major impact on the decisions by which we as consumers make. Our focus, is to motivate today’s consumer to voice their opinion to make a change for the sustainability of our environment. We encourage consumers to support their community today to help bring environmental sustainability.
Baker, Claire. “A Welcome Sign: Hotels Adopt Reuse And Recycling.” Online. http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-7/issue-7/features/a-welcome-sign-hotels-adopt-reuse-and-recycling.html.
California Department of Resources. “Waste Reduction in Hotels and Motels.” Online. http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/ReduceWaste/Business/factsheets/Hotels.htm. August 17, 2012
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. “Corporate Responsibility – Environment”. Online. http://www.fairmont.com/corporate-responsibility/environment/. April 2013
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Gooch, M., Felfel, A., Marenick, N. “Food waste in Canada.” Online. http://www.ccibioenergy.com/userfiles/html_file/Food%20Waste%20in%20Canada%20112410.pdf. November 2010
Hasek, G. “Hotels Cut Food Waste Using Decomposition Machines.” Online. http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2008/10/26/hotels-cut-food-waste-using-decomposition-machines?page=0%2C1. October 2008
Love Food. Hate Waste. [Online Image] April 2013 <http://www.recycleforgreatermanchester.com/clientfiles/Image/Love_Food_Hate_Waste.jpg>
Mcllwraith, Mariela. “Reducing Food Waste – Tips and Best Practices.” Online. http://www.naylornetwork.com/hoc-GreenScene/articles/index.asp?aid=195847&issueID=25731 October 31, 2012
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. “Waste Reduction and Recycling: A Report on the Wyndham Anatole Hotel”. Online. http://infohouse.p2ric.org/ref/03/02136/0213601.pdf. January 2008
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Waste Reduction Tips for Hotels and Casinos in Indian Country.” Online. http://www.epa.gov/wastes/wyl/tribal/pdftxt/casinotips.pdf. April 2000
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Turning Food Waste into Energy at the East Bay Municipal Utility District.” Online. http://www.epa.gov/region9/waste/features/foodtoenergy/food-waste.html. June 7, 2001
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Excerpt from “GUIDE TO GREENING HOTELS THROUGH WASTE MANAGEMENT & GREEN PURCHASING” Written by Mary Ann Remolador of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) With Funding from EPA New England
Sample Hotel Food Collection Program
A hotel decides to collect kitchen prep waste and plate waste from banquets, the bar, and the restaurant for composting.
As a result, management decides to discontinue the use of the garbage disposal for food waste.
In the kitchen
Staff members are provided with 5-gallon reusable food buckets at each work station to collect discards. Individual staff members are responsible for emptying the container into the food waste toter at a designated location. Each night the last staff member in the kitchen transfers the toter to the walk-in cooler for overnight storage. The first staff member to arrive in the morning is responsible for taking the toter out of the cooler and placing it back in the kitchen.
On the serving floor
Staff members are instructed to scrape plates into a 5-gallon reusable food bucket when clearing plates before bringing back to the kitchen. Full buckets are then emptied into the toter in the kitchen. All staff members are responsible for running their bucket through the dishwasher at the end of their shift to eliminate the risk of fruit flies.
Food waste pick-up
Environmental Services brings the full toters to a designated area near the exterior loading dock for pick-up by the hauler. The hauler picks-up the food waste on a daily basis so odors don’t become an issue.
This sample hotel food collection program shows how easy it is to start this type of program, with the help of your staff, and with the proper training.