The Hard Rock Cafe in London -- which houses an Eric Clapton guitar and one of Madonna's credit cards -- is turning to tech to address its food waste problem. The iconic restaurant installed the Eco-Safe food waste digester by BioHiTech Global to cut costs and divert organic material from local landfills.
The food waste digester not only saves money, but it also cuts down on carbon emissions. Since installing it, Hard Rock Cafe reported a 56 percent drop in food waste disposal costs and a savings of 9.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (MTCO2). The digester saves over $3 million in waste-hauling costs annually, according to BioHiTech, and can prevent over 25,000 MTCO2 a year.
BioHiTech Global’s subsidiary, BioHighTech Europe, received accreditation from Carbon Trust for waste savings, and it submitted a case study on the Hard Rock Cafe in London as part of the accreditation process.
“We are honored to have been recognized by such an impactful organization and appreciate the support from the Carbon Trust in identifying the positive economic, social and environmental impact of our technology,” said Alex Giacchetti, president, BioHiTech Europe. “We look forward to working with the Carbon Trust to help raise awareness of the importance of diverting and reducing food waste, and in doing so cutting harmful carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The city's Hard Rock Cafe is one of the “busiest restaurants” in London, Andrew Noone, general manager of Hard Rock Cafe, said in a statement. It generates a heap of food waste, and some days the restaurant will put 661 pounds of food waste into the digester.
“We feed the digester throughout the day and into the early morning, and it eats up whatever we put into it and the wastewater simply goes down the drain,” Noone said. “It's a very clever piece of equipment that we are looking to roll out elsewhere in our group."
Food waste is a massive global problem. About a third of the world’s food supply is wasted every year, and over 34 million tons of food waste winds up discarded in landfills annually, according to BioHiTech. The restaurant industry is responsible for a big part of that food waste.
Only a small portion of food waste is either donated or recycled by the restaurant sector. In 2013, only 15.7 percent of restaurants participating in a survey reported donating or recycling food waste, and over 70 percent of that donated material was cooking oil. Survey respondents generated 33 pounds of food waste per $1,000 of company revenue, on average. The total food waste generated was 2.1 billion pounds for restaurant companies that submitted full survey results. The survey cited the following example to illustrate the size of the food waste problem: A large company with $1 billion in revenues would average 33 million pounds of waste.
One key way that restaurants can reduce food waste is by cutting portion sizes. Over the decades, portion sizes have grown. Take McDonald’s french fries. In 1995, they weighed 2.4 ounces, but today that same product is a small order of french fries. The supersize option, which is 7.1 ounces, is the one typically ordered. Reducing portion sizes not only cuts food waste but it also cuts costs.
While the restaurants themselves bear a portion of the blame for the food waste generated, some of the blame lies with consumers. Ordering more food than they can eat or not taking home leftovers contributes to the problem. Sustainable America lists a number of things that consumers can do to reduce food waste, which include:
- Ordering only what you can can eat. Ask wait staff about portion size because they may offer smaller portions.
- Take home any leftovers and actually eat them.
- If there is something that comes with your meal that you don’t want to eat, tell the server to exclude it.
- Only take what you can really eat at buffets.
Reducing the food waste generated by the restaurant sector will require both restaurants and their diners both doing their part.
Image credit: Flickr/Hector Rodriguez
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.