Managing Waste in the Food Industry: A Circular Economy Approach

Published on : 9/23/21
  • In commemoration of International Day of Awareness of Food Waste and Loss on 29 September, it is our responsibility as a service provider to spread awareness of waste management. Our goal is to give consumers our consumers an ease of mind whenever they enjoy meals prepared by us.

    Take-Make-Reuse Approach

    Waste is commonly dealt with using the linear Take-Make-Dispose method. This includes removing fruit peels and disposing them into waste bins without extracting any of its uses. At Sodexo, we aim to break the take-make-dispose model into take-make-reuse, also known as the circular economy approach.

    This circular model ensures that there is no need for a new resource by using “older resources” that would have ended up in landfills. This closes the loop, allowing us to take less from the environment and use what we already have. At UWC South East Asia’s (UWCSEA) Dover Campus in Singapore, here is how the circular model works:

    UWCSEA Circular Economy in Food Waste

    Photo Credits: UWCSEA Dover Singapore

    1. Sodexo’s team collects fresh herbs (such as basil, rosemary, mint, and spinach) from the herb garden on campus.The herbs and vegetables will then be used in dishes such as Herb Roast Chicken.
    2. All pre-consumer food waste is collected and weighed.
    3. Data is entered into our WasteWatch system so that the chefs can keep track of the amount of food waste.
    4. The Sodexo team keeps track of all waste produced in the kitchen as well as consumer plate waste from the dining hall. Each week, new and improved targets are set together with support from the school community to reduce food waste.
    5. Consumer plate waste from the canteen is segregated into waste bins (food, liquid and general) by students.
    6. All compostable waste is then collected and transferred to the composter for processing.
    7. All food and horticulture waste undergo a 24hour process of fermentation.
    8. After 24 hours, the food waste is ready to be used as compost.
    9. The compost is then collected and used to fertilise the plants in our herb garden, creating continuity in the cycle.

    Strategic Application

    On campus, pre-consumer waste per day amounts up to approximately 40 kg.

    Pre-Consumer Waste

    This circular flow helps to solve the issue of unseen pre-consumer waste, such as vegetable trims and coffee grounds. Not only does this make our teams more conscious when they plan menus, it allows them to make full use of the food we purchase. Through this process, we maximise all the value that can be extracted from the food we purchased.

    Reduction of Waste

    With this, our total food waste for the month of January has dropped from 2.59 tonnes in 2018 to 0.46 tonnes in 2021.

    Holistic Efforts

    At UWCSEA, we supplement the circular approach with other sustainability initiatives such as sending used cooking oil to be converted to biofuels. From September 2020 to August 2021, we collected 701kg of cooking oil which reduced 1836 kg of carbon emissions, equivalent to 820,000 smartphone charges.

    Recycling of Cooking Oil

    This biofuel is used in local transportation service and power generators and contributes to the construction of major projects. We no longer use single-use plastics on campus and play our part in energy saving by ensuring that our equipment have a rating of at least three ticks by the National Environment Agency.

    Our Motivation

    Aman Singh Chauhan, Head - Dual Campus, Facilities and Operations, UWCSEA, shared: 

    Environment and Sustainability is something we live and breathe at UWCSEA. We all know that initiatives in this direction do not come easy and require systems as well as high levels of commitments from one and all. Our food services partner (Sodexo) has been collaborating with us on these important matters. There are several initiatives in place, including but not limited to reducing food waste, recycling oil, eliminating single use plastic, composting, and using items which are sustainably sourced where possible. Supporting students' learning journey and creating awareness is another area where we see them going the extra mile to contribute towards our mission by creating opportunities to engage our students in taking action. We are very grateful for these extraordinary levels of engagements and sincerely value what they do for our community.

    Adopting a circular approach helps ensure we use resources more sustainably and reduce waste. The food industry has a key role to play in promoting sustainable practices and we are in a unique position to drive the behavioural change we need. Having demonstrated the success of this circular economy approach, we will continue to partner with our clients and consumers to strengthen our food waste reduction initiatives wherever possible.

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