Reducing packaging waste in the professional kitchen

In today’s environmentally conscious world, waste in the professional kitchen has both financial and reputational consequences. With thoughtful planning it is possible to both reduce the costs of dealing with waste packaging and provide an awareness of the environmental impact of your kitchen.

The first consideration should be to prevent excess packaging from coming into the kitchen in the first place. Mixed unprepared fruit and veg could be supplied in returnable plastic crates. This will cut out some poly bags and cardboard boxes. In the same way, prepared veg in poly bags could be delivered within the returnable trays. Where tinned products are being delivered in part boxes, they could be put in a tray instead to save bulky cardboard.

The waste storage area outside the kitchen is a sensitive area for all caterers. The area is a magnet for public health inspectors and to the public, a clear indication of the kitchen standards. Waste storage and collection is a cost to the kitchens bottom line profit, so any action that can keep the area clean and tidy will both save money and reflect well on the kitchens own quality.

This waste storage area is one where a targeted approach to waste or excess packaging can bring tangible benefits, for example; large empty metal cooking oil tins can quickly fill a thousand litre wheeled container. The cans are difficult to crush down, but if your kitchen is near to a scrap metal dealer, they will usually allow you to dispose of the empty cans there without charge. Try giving them a ring first, to check that they will accept the tins.

Another way of reducing volume in the waste bins is by purchasing a can crushing machine. These machines will reduce your can volume by 80%, saving valuable space in your waste bins. Glass bottles can occupy several waste bins even with weekly collections. Broken glass spillage from over full bins reflects badly on the kitchen. This problem can be reduced by the purchase of a glass crusher. These machines can reduced the volume of the glass bottles by 80% and the glass cullet is easily recycled.

There are several companies in the UK who can sell or rent crushing machines. There is of course a cost element in the hire or purchase of these machines. However, there are also cost savings in the reduction of the rental and collection charges of the kitchens wheeled waste bins. There is also a reduction in the cost of man hours spent moving waste together with a safer working environment. On the eco-friendly side of the debate, there is a reduction in the journey miles of collection trucks and a cleaner waste storage area outside the kitchens.

One final thought on the reduction of waste volume is the waste food from the kitchen. There are machines on the market that can pulp waste food and trimmings, in the process the water content of the food is removed via the waste water drain, the remaining semi dry matter goes for food recycling as usual. By removing the liquid content there is volume and weight saving of around 80%. Kitchen owners and managers will have to weigh carefully the costs of some of these waste handling machines against the savings on waste collection costs. The fact that kitchens are adopting these types of changes could be shared on social media to an environmentally conscious audience.

John Haken is a director at WF Denny, the partyware and packaging supplier, and has a specialist focus on eco-friendly packaging

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