Waste for thought

At HCWH Europe, we are following the current debate about the Circular Economy Package, which proposes a more effective approach to waste management, aiming to decrease residual waste while increasing the use of secondary raw materials in the EU economy at all stages of the life cycle of products.1

One of the most important parts of this Action Plan is related to food waste. As you may know, one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted every year. Taking this estimation into calories, this equates to approximately twenty-four percent of all food produced. With this in mind, food waste is just the tip of the iceberg, as we usually don’t consider the environmental, social, economic and ethical consequences of the food system.2

In industrialised countries, most food waste is produced at the consumption stage. In hospitals, for example, where food waste from plates is higher than in other foodservice sectors, food can make up to 50% of the total waste generated in a ward.3 The catering managers reading this should be thinking about the cost associated with food waste in their healthcare facilities. Although no collective data is available for the European healthcare sector, in the UK alone the total cost of food waste in the healthcare sector was over £230.4 million in 2011.4

But I do believe that we should not focus only on the cost, as it does not represent the true impact of food production and food waste. We should look ahead to the opportunities that the new EC Circular Economy Package provides in terms of increasing collaboration between farmers, community members, policy-makers, companies and local authorities to make sure that the right amount of food is procured, while improving communication between foodservice providers, procurers and consumers. We should influence the regulatory framework (i.e. implementation of the new public procurement directive and the development of the green public procurement criteria – GPP criteria – for catering and food services); and push for the implementation of innovative strategies with the help of modern technology, while dealing with sustainability and resource efficiency.

I am sure that if any of these measures were taken, they would produce amazing results, as some of our members that are implementing sustainable food policies in the healthcare sector can already confirm.

 - Paola Hernandez, Sustainable & Healthy Food Programme Intern


Preview Image: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture via Flickr CC

(1)  Circular Economy Strategy. (2016): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm

(2)  Lipinski, B., Hanson, C., Lomax, J., Kitinoja, L., Waite, R., & Searchinger, T. (2013). Reducing Food Loss and Waste. Washington, DC. http://pdf.wri.org/reducing_food_loss_and_waste.pdf

(3)  Williams, P., & Walton, K. (2011). Plate waste in hospitals and strategies for change. E-SPEN, the European E-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, 6(6), e235–e241. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclnm.2011.09.006

(4)  Lee, P., Parfitt, J., & Fryer, A. (2013). The True Cost of Food Waste within Hospitality and Food Service. Banbury: http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/The True Cost of Food Waste within Hospitality and Food Service Sector FINAL.pdf