One of the biggest problems plaguing the foodservice industry is waste. Both food waste and plastics waste are inherent throughout our industry, something that needs direct action for it to change.

“The amount of plastic is hideous,” said Mark Southon, executive chef at O’Connell Street Bistro. “People are becoming more and more conscious about it, and things are slowly getting better, but we need to continue to work together and be more vocal.”

Mark Southon.
Photograph by Babiche Martens.

Southon described how O’Connell Street has started getting their vegetables directly from the grower, meaning they can collect the produce in cardboard boxes as opposed to plastic throwaways.

“Wasting food is literally throwing away money,” continued Southon. “So we try and prep and use everything—leftovers from meats or veggies are used for stocks, and sauces, for example. But ordering food can be expensive, so we really try and use it all.”

“Food waste represents a big cost to a business and the environment,” said Steve Logan, managing director of Logan Brown. “We take a great deal of care with our ordering, receiving and storage systems to be sure food is always fresh and nothing is wasted.”

Steve Logan.

Logan also mentioned that the talented chefs make sure they try to utilise every part of the ingredient in some way or another. If there were food scraps, they could be used to make compost and eventually make their way back into the food system as opposed to going to the landfill.

KiwiHarvest, a national fresh food rescue charity that operates through Auckland, the North Shore, Hawke’s Bay, Dunedin and Queenstown know the depth of the food waste problem. Since 2012, KiwiHarvest has rescued over 2.6 million kilograms of surplus food—80,000-100,000 kilograms per month. KiwiHarvest’s communications coordinator, Amélie Schoen said that the problem is apparent, but people are looking to change.

Amélie Schoen.

“We’re trying to encourage people to go back to what their grandmother taught them—how to use every part of the vegetable,” said Schoen. “There is no need to throw everything away.”

KiwiHarvest’s approach to food waste is something that everyone can learn from. Schoen summarised a potential solution succinctly.

“At the end of the day, no hospitality business wants to waste food. It’s about creating the logistics, and getting the food onto the right track—as well as educating people. Somewhere therein lies some sort of solution.”

Change requires action, though, and the foodservice industry will need to reimagine how to properly deal with its waste in order for this goal to become a reality. Steve Rickerby, founder and managing director of Supertrash, said that a lot of change required is around mentality.

Steve Rickerby.

“We actively engage with our hospitality customers to ensure that their staff understand waste flows and why it is important to separate waste,” said Rickerby. “Transparency and education around what happens to waste in New Zealand are key factors in creating motivation to divert waste away from landfill.”

“There are actually seven Rs, not just reduce, reuse and recycle,” continued Rickerby. “They’re in a hierarchy of importance, as well: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, repurpose and rot (compost). When people understand how these choices impact the environment, they can assess their processes and see how you can apply these waste minimisation practices at every stage.”