Comment: Waste not, want not

It is that wonderful time of year when those celebrating the festive season are enjoying the season of goodwill with colleagues, friends and loved ones and perhaps overstocking and overindulging, but it is also a time to consider our impact on others

Emma Banks
Emma Banks

As of October 2019 the world’s population is 7.7 billion people, and according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) it is estimated that one billion suffer from chronic hunger, and almost two billion are under or over nourished. The cruel irony is that the world produces enough food to feed up to 10 billion people but due to food scarcity caused by poverty and inequality in the distribution of food, millions starve.

As an 80’s child of an aspiring middle-class family, I never comprehended starvation. It was 13 July 1985 when Band Aid was televised to 1.9 Billion people in 150 nations, where my generation were exposed to the level of poverty and starvation in parts of Africa possibly for the first time in the developed world.

This cruel irony twists further in that while two billion now starve and food scarcity is an issue in many parts of the world, it is estimated that one third of the food we produce is wasted.

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Incredibly, as a human race, we compound the problem even further with environmental issues. Creating food uses the world’s rapidly depleting natural resources such as water and land, which can result in further deforestation, only to throw away 1.3 billion tonnes of food in landfill. This wasted food then rots and creates methane gas, which is even more harmful than CO2 and adds to the greenhouse emissions.

As individuals working in the hospitality industry, we can all play our part in reducing food waste. As part of Hilton’s Travel with Purpose 2030 goals, we are committed to cutting our environmental footprint in half by 2030 – that includes reducing food waste to landfill by 50%. Hilton, along with other major hospitality brands, has started to look closely at where we can significantly reduce our own wastage inside the kitchen, adopting food waste technology systems such as Winnow, Lean Path and ChefsEye Tech. These systems also commercially pay for themselves, and according to a report from PKF hotel experts in October 2019 found that 95% of analysed properties were able to recoup their investment back within two years. It is possible to act responsibly, adopt sustainable practices and deliver commercial results as well.

Another food waste initiative adopted in some Hilton properties is turning food waste into compost and diverting it from going to landfill. Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort uses a technique that turns toxic waste into organic, odourless compost in four weeks, reducing CO2 emissions by 90% and producing zero methane gas.

Our actions can sometimes be as simple as food styling on our buffets and meeting refreshment stations. An increase of individual portion sizes, although a little more labour intensive, will pay back through reduced waste. Moving away from the old methods of mass cooking hot buffet items not only reduces waste but is fresher, tastier and looks more appealing to the guest.
The hospitality industry is responding to the moral, economic and environmental issue of food waste and it is in the best interests of everyone that we share best practice across the industry – crossing the invisible lines in the sand between organisations and providing sustainable solutions for all our guests.

“No one is too small to make a difference,” - Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old student and environmental activist.

About the author
Based at Hilton’s MEA regional office in Dubai and appointed as vice president in February 2019, Emma Banks is responsible for F&B strategy and development across EMEA, supporting Hilton’s trading and future pipeline of hotels.

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