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Complex challenge of food waste

Food waste is under the spotlight more than ever, with WRAP identifying it as a key priority in its five-year plan.

So the Central Manchester Trust worked with the organisation to help it reduce food waste as well as boost recycling rates.

Claire Igoe, sustainability and energy manager at the trust, says: “High volumes of food waste were contaminating our general domestic waste, which necessitated waste being treated at a dirty MRF, leading to low recycling rates.” So WRAP, the trust and PFI facilities management company Sodexo started to look at ways to cut levels.

The partnership took a three-pronged approach: separating out food waste, weighing the amount collected and reducing food waste at source.

Trays that contained multiple meals could not be separated easily, resulting in waste if only a few of the meals were required. Following recommendations from WRAP, such trays were replaced with individual portions, so meals were sent where they were needed and fewer ended up in the bin. Sodexo introduced single meals in recyclable packaging, which it brands as the Bonne Santé system.

This system also allowed portion sizes to be more closely matched to patient needs. Moving away from batch cooking and delivery meant that, instead of delivering a big tray of shepherd’s pie, for example, the hospital can deliver 10 different meals that meet individual needs. Menu options included diabetic, soft food, gluten free, vegetarian, low salt, and larger and smaller portions.

The hospital retains a production kitchen for the preparation of meals for those patients with more complex needs, such as people with severe allergies.

By allowing patients and nurses to select appropriate options, the hospital has reduced both the cooking of unwanted food and serving meals which are uneaten or only partially eaten. This work reduced Central Manchester’s monthly food waste volume from 12.5 tonnes a month to 7.4 tonnes, a 40% volume reduction.

These measures have also resulted in less food waste contamination of dry recyclables. Until this point, food waste was going into the general waste stream, contaminating other recyclable materials and preventing them from being extracted and recycled. Igoe says: “Separating out food waste greatly reduced contamination, allowing our general domestic waste to be treated as dry mixed recyclables.”

The trust introduced caddies into all ward areas for food waste. Each caddy was labelled and information posters supporting the initiative were posted across the hospital. And the hospital and Sodexo provided training for staff who served food on the wards.

“Soon after moving over to a segregated food waste system, there were issues of high levels of packaging in the food stream,” says Igoe. “But the posters and procedure proved effective, and we were able to capture almost entirely contamination-free food waste within three months.”

Collected food waste is finally sent for anaerobic digestion at a local facility.

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    Complex challenge of food waste

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