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Visit Scotland | Alba

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Reducing the quantity of food waste you produce will save you money, because you will buy less and save on waste disposal charges. Plus, by wasting less you will also reduce your environmental impact and your carbon footprint.


In this section:

  1. Reducing food waste
  2. What do you know about your food waste?
  3. Top tips to reduce food waste
  4. Recycling of food waste
  5. Surplus food redistribution
  6. Hospitality Zero case studies
  7. Further advice

1. Reducing food waste

Food waste is more than likely one of the heaviest and largest items in your bin and costs a lot for disposal. Filling just one 240 litre food waste wheelie bin every week, costs you £12,500 a year. This is likely to be in excess of £3,500. This takes into account the true cost of food waste, which is not just the cost of disposal. After all, you also spent time and money buying, storing and cooking food.

2. What do you know about your food waste?

  • Where does it come from?

    How much is through spoilage in storage, during preparation and from plate waste (i.e. customer leftovers)?

  • Measure your waste

    Where possible get an idea of the amount of food wasted by weighing or counting numbers of bins or buckets. Don’t worry about being very accurate – it is just to give you a general idea.

    This starting point will show you the major areas of waste and what is costing you the most money. Once you have implemented changes, you can repeat the measurements and should be able to see the areas where you have reduced waste and saved money.

3. Top tips to reduce food waste

The most appropriate ways for your business to reduce food waste will depend on the kind of food service provided. Once you have identified where waste is occurring you can adjust your practices. You can avoid a lot of waste by reviewing the following areas:

  1. 1

    Purchasing practices

    • Only buy what you need
    • Bulk buy non-perishable items
    • Have one person in charge of purchasing to avoid duplication of orders and develop relationships with suppliers


  2. 2

    Menu planning and portion sizes

    • Plan menus, and use seasonal, local produce
    • Offer side dish elements (such as side salads) as an option rather than as standard
    • Offer different portion sizes to suit customers’ varying appetites
    • Offer customers the option to take away anything not eaten in a carry out box or save it and use it the following day for staff lunches


  3. 3

    Storage methods

    • Check fridge and freezer temperatures regularly
    • Use air-tight containers
    • Use first in first out system of stock control food preparation practices


  4. 4

    Food preparation practices

    • Decrease preparation waste by reducing trimmings of vegetables, meat and fish
    • Use carcasses, bones and trimmings etc. to prepare stock for sauces or soups
    • Employ "nose to tail eating" i.e. develop menu dishes that use less popular cuts such as offal
    • Manage variable demand by tracking busy periods / times of the day and year and by ordering stock and preparing food accordingly

  • Did you know?

    When food waste breaks down in landfill it produces methane. This greenhouse gas is many times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. In fact, food and drink production accounts for approximately 20% of Scotland’s carbon footprint.

4. Recycling of food waste

The greatest opportunities to make cost savings come from preventing edible food from being wasted. However, some food waste is unavoidable. If the waste could not be prevented or reused, it can be recycled, provided you separate it from other waste.

You can approach your waste contractor or local authority if you have any queries about the food waste collection service in your area.

5. Surplus food redistribution 

Food redistribution may be an option if you have surplus food. By this, we mean that you make food available, which would otherwise have ended up as waste, for people to eat. Around 250,000 tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible. Companies, charities and individuals can all benefit from the redistribution of surplus food.

Read Zero Waste Scotland's Food Redistribution Guide for more info.

6. Hospitality Zero case studies

7. Further advice

For more information on opportunities to reduce and recycle food waste see:

Related links