Trimming the waste line

With food waste costing the healthcare sector an estimated £230m a year, Dean Pearce, Business Development Manager, SWRnewstar lifts the lid on the true cost of this waste to the NHS and the value in trimming the waste line.

The headline figures for food waste make for shocking reading. Globally, an estimated third of all food produced is wasted. If it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. These are the statistics we have become used to hearing, but there is an issue with looking at the numbers on this scale: they are so big that we might come to believe that individually we can have little impact, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

According to WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme), food waste costs the healthcare sector £1,900 per tonne. This is made up of: the procurement of food (52%); the labour to prepare and serve it (37%); the utilities to cook/refrigerate it (7.5%), and; disposal (just 3.5%). When we throw food away, we throw all of that procurement, labour and utility cost away with it. So what does this mean for a typical NHS Trust?

With the NHS in England macerating a significant volume of its food waste (42%), the weights produced on an individual site are often hidden and with it, insight into its value, is washed down the drain with thousands of litres of costly water. According to a published case study, one Trust discovered it was producing 2.6 tonnes of food waste a week, and our experience of waste tenders is that this is not uncommon for a hospital. In this example, the volume equates to over £4,900 per week and £250,000 per year in wasted food, labour and utilities.

Measuring food waste to manage it, is the message that SWRnewstar has been taking to recent NHS Sustainability Day Roadshows and Sustainable Health & Care Events.

Scott Buckler, Campaign Manager for the NHS Sustainability Day said of the initiative, "To better manage waste you need behaviour change, which starts with planning, auditing and staff engagement and these types of initiatives are really promoting that. The key to waste management in the NHS is really to have all departments working together collaboratively to take responsibility.”

For the NHS it is not just about focusing on the cost of removing the waste they generate; the real opportunity comes from focusing on the processes and behaviours that lead to waste being generated in the first place. If the NHS can minimise those, then they will not only go a long way to reducing the waste they are producing, but also save a significant amount of money at a time when budgets are being continually squeezed.

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Food waste costs the healthcare sector an estimated £230m a year.
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