The Commercial Food Waste Initiative

Written by Martin Fodor

Copied from the excellent Bristol Local Food Update

Discarded food and preparation leftovers comprise one of the most problematic wastes for a café or restaurant. Yet a food waste collection alongside dry recyclables is not always practical or viable for smaller premises. This is the challenge now being tackled in a local initiative in the city.

May/June’s newsletter reported a survey of food and others wastes from a cluster of cafés and restaurants. One of the conclusions of this exercise is that tackling the problem as a group should be more effective than each café or restaurant trying to deal with the problem individually. This piece updates readers on the progress towards an innovative project to develop a commercial food waste collection service for clusters of local food hospitality premises.

Service specification

Work is now underway in the Stokes Croft area to identify key features of a service specification that will meet multiple premises’ needs, ensure responsible management of food waste, and improve the street scene. This initiative is intended to pilot a collective arrangement that will maximise benefits for the traders, the environment and the community. This should then be available to more areas of the city and create a solution to a pressing problem that’s ever more expensive and environmentally undesirable: how to ensure unavoidable food waste does not end up in landfill.

Following the report in the newsletter the author had the opportunity to present the finding to the Stokes Croft Traders’ group, the area surveyed. This session helped them to understand the common issues they faced and explore the way informal solutions and irregular collections did not necessarily meet their needs or secure them against risks from their waste causing problems.

The session started with a positive look at their area which identified what’s great about Stokes Croft as a food destination: its diversity and social hub effect, and the quality of local food on offer. This provided a positive perspective with participants keen to develop the idea of a local service that will be available to them and their colleagues.

To find the shape of a viable food waste programme for local food businesses we then identified what businesses need in terms of practicalities, highlighting what would be good for the community and good for the environment, as well as issues of cost. Martin stressed the goal is a service costing no more than current waste services, and preferably less. There should also be support for waste reduction alongside the collection.

Current food waste arrangements (if any) were reviewed and a few current issues were highlighted. The group then moved on to the service they’d like to see. This included finding a single preferred contractor for Stokes Croft, the idea being to reduce vehicle movements, get a group contract and encourage contractors to make a competitive pitch to the businesses. We discussed questions that need to be clarified: how often waste is collected, cost, when current contracts terminate (and notice periods), and bin sizes. Some of the companies agreed that they have environmental values and are prepared to pay more to ensure sustainability.

While the possibility of shared storage compounds to bring waste bins together and improve the street scene was raised it was agreed this would take a lot longer to resolve or agree. The group therefore agreed to consider how to get an initial contract in place that might be offered to each business on Stokes Croft. At least one contractor had in fact agreed to offer better rates the more companies opt in, and to handle notice of termination of current contracts so the service can be phased in.

The group thought that advice for staff, and information for customers, as well as ways to promote the (hoped-for) innovative service would be helpful and worthwhile to highlight what goes on in Stokes Croft. Staff were also keen to see how their waste was being treated.

At the time of writing businesses in the area are providing details to enable the service requirement and the scale of the task to be collated so prospective contractors can be asked for their pitch. With other areas like Harbourside already interested in something similar the project looks set to develop something that could benefit many more businesses in the city. There has also been interest from Business West’s Go Green initiative and Bristol Green Capital who are keen to see this environmental improvement in the area.

Martin Fodor

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