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Thursday 9th May 2024

In a single year, the UK throws away 9.5 million tonnes of food waste; that’s the equivalent of over 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and 1.3 billion meals.

As part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), the global target is to halve food waste by 2023. 

Whilst the WWF most strongly recommends a top-down policy approach to tackle the issue, Recorra has long recognised the need for businesses to address this issue head-on. This is not only for the sake of the environment but also to help businesses save money- although, as we’re now finding out, it’s not just money that makes the world go round. That’s why we’re breaking down the issue of food waste for our customers, its impact on the environment, and how you can make a difference.

UK businesses waste tonnes of food each year.

What is food waste?

Food waste refers to any food that is discarded along the supply chain, all the way from production to consumption; that might be food not fit for market, prep waste from kitchens, or lonely sandwich crusts from the boardroom. This includes both edible and inedible parts of food items, most of which are avoidable. It is a multifaceted problem with significant repercussions across sectors, making it a critical issue to address at all levels of the food system. Fortunately, it’s a story we can amend for a better ending.

Landfills produce methane and contribute to global warming.

Why is food waste a problem?

When food is wasted, much of it ends up in landfills, where it decomposes anaerobically and produces methane (Recorra has a zero-to-landfill policy: nothing we collect goes to landfill). Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that is more warming than carbon dioxide (on a 100-year timescale, methane is 28 times more warming than carbon dioxide), therefore contributing significantly to global warming. Approximately 5.5% of the UK's GHG emissions come from food that’s thrown away. But here’s the kicker; wasted food isn’t just bad for the environment, it also hits businesses where it hurts (their wallets).

Whether it’s the cost of purchasing uneaten goods or expenses associated with disposal, food waste has a tangible financial impact. For bustling restaurants or neighbourhood cafes alike, WRAP estimates that food waste in the hospitality sector is costing businesses £2.5bn each year.

Before we even get to waste, however, food production generates emissions at every stage; from agriculture to transportation to packaging. Each stage adds to the cost of food waste, which is estimated to be at £500 per tonne.

It’s not just about being environmentally conscious (though that’s important, too); throwing away food is, for many businesses, essentially throwing away money, too. Every plate is more than a few pennies.

Recorra helps businesses recycle their food waste and minimise their environmental impact.

So what is the solution?

WRAP claims that 75% of the thousands of tonnes of food waste generated by the hospitality sector is avoidable. This is great news: it means that there’s plenty business can do to tackle the issue.

1. Food Waste Tracking and Analysis 

We treat our waste audits like detective work; our analyses provide accurate and useful data that help identify food waste patterns, identify areas of inefficiency, and implement targeted solutions. Armed with data, we work with our customers to create bespoke improvement plans that reduce waste over time. 

Our analysis at King’s Cross helped boost their recycling rates to 81% by identifying where food waste could be diverted and recycled. 

2. Food Waste Recycling 

With the scoop on your waste habits, we can take action, implementing food waste recycling practices to reduce the amount of food ending up in general waste. Recorra collects food waste from our customers and offers specialist services to recycle coffee grounds and compostable packaging, too. None of the waste we collect goes to landfill; the food waste we collect is instead composted or converted into renewable energy. 

Take Paramount’s head office, for example. There, we introduced bespoke bin banks and food segregation systems and equipped kitchenettes with food caddies for tea and coffee waste. Our consultants set up an engagement stand to answer their burning questions. The result was a phenomenal 70% recycling rate. 

3. Employee Training and Engagement 

When employees become champions of waste reduction – and when employers foster a culture of sustainability within their businesses – great change happens. This most often looks like improved recycling rates for our customers. 

Our Engagement Team plays a crucial role in this, offering training sessions to front and back-of-house staff. These sessions not only educate our team about the importance of food waste and recycling but also provide practical tips for implementing best practices. Our engagement work at Ropemaker Place has seen their recycling rate reach a record high of over 6,000kg in April. 

4. Food Donation Programs 

There are a variety of charities and organisations set up to help tackle food waste and redistribute food to communities in need. In 2023, around 4.7 million people in the UK, 7% of the population, live in food poverty.

We’re diving head-first into the issue. Through volunteer sessions with our partners Plan Zheroes and Fareshare, we facilitate the redistribution of surplus food to communities in need across London. For every food waste collection we receive, we donate the equivalent of one hot meal to our charity partners.

Recorra works with Plan Zheroes and Fareshare to redistribute commercial food waste to people in need.

What’s the future of food waste?

As a part of the government’s ‘Simpler Recycling’ legislation, by 31st March 2025 all businesses will need to have a food waste recycling service. You can read about this and all the other changes to recycling legislation in our Simpler Recycling blog. 

Although food waste collections are an established service, we are still innovating in this field, diving headfirst to tackle the food waste problem. We want to continue to support customers in their food waste reduction journeys and have recently trialled a new self-weigh bin technology to weigh food waste that is collected via our bin exchange service. Meaning we can provide real food waste weights alongside clean bins. Fresh.

As discussed, food waste is a multifaceted issue with far-reaching consequences for the environment, for society, and for businesses. The UK alone discards a staggering amount of food annually; with the UNSDG’s target of halving food waste by 2030, the imperative for action is clear. By taking proactive measures to reduce food waste, businesses contribute to environmental sustainability whilst realising tangible economic benefits. 

Want to know what we can do for your business? Contact us at

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