Food Waste

Swimming upstream and tackling commercial food waste recycling

By SustainIt

SustainIt, a sustainability consultancy based in Paintworks, outline in the blog below how they bucked the trend and set up food waste recycling capabilities within a property management framework that prevented it, and what their more ambitious plans are for the future.

Food waste is a topic that we at SustainIt believe to be important in our day-to-day lives.

Single-use plastics have been at the forefront of global public attention in 2019. Raised awareness has altered perceptions across the board, leading to rapid positive behaviour change. And yet we can’t ignore that over a third of all food produced globally is wasted, equating to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (as of 2018). These shocking statistics can be difficult to put into perspective and lack the level of attention single use plastics attract.

Inspired by local initiatives, including the successful Bristol Waste Campaign – Slim My Waste – Feed My Face and the Going for Gold bid, SustainIt decided to take action. Our aim was to see how we could make a positive difference in this area, over and above the work we do for our corporate clients around the world.

We all eat food – it’s what keeps us alive, and for many is a source of enjoyment and happiness. Although reduction is key, some food waste is unavoidable, especially in an office environment. Just idly putting your food waste in the general waste bin means that it eventually gets put into landfill. Once below the surface in landfill the food decomposes and becomes a significant greenhouse gas emitter through the methane released.

Challenging the status quo

Our office is based in Paintworks, Bristol. Three years ago we noticed a problem – there was no food waste bin for tenants in the business units, even though there were bins for segregated recycling of other items. We raised the issue using the instrument of quarterly tenant meetings. At the time, the collective voice of Paintworks tenants was not enough to convince the managing agent that this was something worth adding to their to-do list.

Not content to settle for the status quo, we at SustainIt entered into an agreement with Boca Bar (the on-site bar/restaurant) to have access to their food waste bins on a weekly basis. This ensured that at least our food waste was being fully utilized, even though it did not solve the wider Paintworks problem.

Since this time, we’ve continued to separate, measure and recycle our food waste in this way and have recycled on average 130kg of food waste each year – more than the weight of a giant panda!

Continuing to innovate

In the time since we raised this issue, sustainability topics have increased in prominence across the board. As a result of this, we’ve been encouraged to share what measures we’ve taken to improve waste separation in our office and we have had enquiries from fellow Paintworks tenants about our food waste management.

So, noticing the tide of change and wanting to try and do more on a local level to tackle a global problem close to our hearts, we decided to investigate whether the time was right to innovate further. We invited a handful of Paintworks businesses to have an informal round table discussion about how we can push the managing agent of Paintworks to take more notice.

The outcome was positive. Four different businesses across the Paintworks site split into teams to survey the remaining companies about their interest in recycling food waste. SustainIt created a simple 5 question survey for this. Every single one of the 34 companies on site agreed that the issue was important. Almost all were willing to use a food waste bin and 16 stated they were passionate about the issue.

What next?

Armed with these enthusiastic findings, we’re now in the process of speaking to the Managing Agent in the view to reaching a speedy conclusion. We aim to have a food waste bin in place for all Paintworks members before the turn of the year. We’ll work with the chosen waste provider in order to collect data to measure the impact that this initiative has, so we can demonstrate the benefits. We hope that our journey will inspire other businesses to challenge the status quo and collaborate to find solutions even where none are obvious. Stay tuned for updates!

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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