Three years ago, a survey among UK restaurants revealed that eating out produces 100 times more CO2 emissions than eating in. Food waste contributes a significant portion to this amount. Last year, several UK businesses brought the focus to food waste and developed methods on how to reduce this number. However, in spite of growing awareness, a whopping 200,000 tons of food is wasted per year.
Currently, dozens of London chefs are banding together to introduce doggy bags in an attempt to reduce waste around the capital. The Sustainable Restaurant Association has organized the Too Good To Waste campaign and participating restaurants have pledged to stock “doggy boxes.” Staff in these restaurants will be trained to offer these boxes to diners (free of charge) who have not been able to finish their meal.
The SRA is a national non-profit that provides restaurants advice and support on how to become more sustainable. SRA also offers Star Rating as a method to evaluate how sustainable restaurants are. This rating also serves as a barometer for customers when choosing a place to eat. Tom Tanner of the SRA reckons that the initiative could cut down the amount of food waste by at least 20% in every participating restaurant. The doggy boxes provided by SRA is made by London BioPackaging and are constructed out of 100% recycled and biodegradable materials making them suitable for recycling and composting.
Restaurateurs reckon that there is a stigma around asking for doggy bags that keeps London diners from asking for one. A survey suggests that 9 out of 10 diners feel that something needs to be done to cut down food waste but a third had never thought to ask for a doggy bag and another quarter were too embarrassed.
Tackling food waste is a complicated problem. Many diners who do take food home are just as likely to throw it away after it has been sitting in their fridge for a few days. Therefore, there is no way to measure if the campaign has had any impact on the amount of waste that is reduced. A food waste campaign will have more impact if there is a dual focus on what hotels and restaurants can do within their premises to reduce food waste.
There are a variety of different ways in which food waste can be converted into something useful. Customer campaigns are essential to bring a bigger focus to the issue but unless the restaurants themselves are making and effort to reduce food waste through their operational methods, the problem will continue. Food waste not only contributes towards GHG emissions but is it a crime to just throw away something that so many people are dying without. In the face of rising food prices, every effort must be taken to reduce the amount of food that is wasted.
Image Credit: Sustainable Restaurant Association