Topic 2 Food waste hierarchy

The food waste hierarchy (or food recovery hierarchy) sets out steps for preventing and managing food waste, in order to minimize impact on the environment.

  1. The first action is to prevent raw materials and processed food to become waste.
  2. Then to redistribute the non-eaten and still edible food to people in need and then to animal feed.
  3. The next option will be to recycle it through an anaerobic digestion process, creating fertilizer and biogas, or by composting it.
  4. If none of this is possible, then waste has to be disposed of. Preferably incinerated with energy recovery, then incinerated without energy recovery, the worst option being to send it to landfill.

Food Waste Hierarchy – EU

source: EU Waste Framework Directive (2008)

  • Refuse waste by having proper stock management with rotating stock
  • Reduce waste by serving controlled portion.
  • Reuse suitable prepared uncooked food or cooked food not served in other meals, plan menus that use leftover food.
  • Reuse food that is close to expiration date first.
  • Always follow the requirements of your local food hygiene standards.
  • Prepared food and food products that can still be consumed can be redistributed.
  • Customers can be proposed a “doggy bag” to take their food leftovers.
  • Donation can be made to charity association: this will be detailed later in the module as it is one of the best opportunity regarding circularity and social impact.
  • Plant-based food waste can feed animals: veterinarians or agricultural offices can help to know the specific regulation and find opportunities.

Can be engaged through a partnership with food banks and similar charitable organizations. For example, Red Alimenta is an organization of volunteers in Toledo that collects surplus food and delivers it to people in need. The network of volunteers in different neighborhoods of the city collects and distributes surplus prepared food from restaurants, schools or hospitals.

The idea is quite simple but requires some organization. Following recommendations have been prepared jointly by HOTREC and the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) with the aim of helping hospitality establishments to engage in donations:

  • Have a responsible person;
  • Select a reliable partner for donations, enter into a formal partnership with him;
  • Identify which food can be donated;
  • Store in a suitable way the food to be donated, be aware of how it can be and will be transferred;
  • Promote your action towards your customers as a way to educate about food waste;
  • Keep internal records of each donation;
  • Think about tax benefits it can drive, depending on your country;
  • Have the same safety requirements as food served for regular customers.