5 things every chef should know about recycling food and packaging waste

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Food and packaging waste are mounting issues that are causing a huge impact globally – with plastic pollution ending up in oceans and landfills, and the equivalent of six rubbish trucks of edible food wasted every second worldwide, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation1

This waste can be due to several reasons, such as out-of-date food, peelings and trimmings, plate waste, using non-recyclable packaging or a lack of recycling facilities.


Minimising food and packaging waste is key, here are five things every chef should know to tackle these.


1. Prevent waste: measure food waste and develop an action plan

Chefs and their staff can measure food waste for a trial period, for example a week, by collecting food waste in three separate bins – one for preparation, spoilage and plate waste – to understand where food waste comes from. Calculating the amount of food waste produced each year can be done using a tracking sheetto monitor and measure. 

Chefs can then form an action plan, like preventing spoilage by storing stock correctly at the right temperature, or menu planning using some pre-prepared, frozen or dried ingredients to reduce wastage.


2. Manage waste: identify food banks or agencies that accept prepared or leftover food

Even the best run kitchens generate food waste or extra food. Many charities worldwide will collect extra food to give to those who need it. Hotels large and small, including Hilton Worldwide, have taken part.

Chefs can look up and choose food banks or agencies that accept prepared food to determine what type of food they can take and process for storing3.


3. Recycle waste: composting

This is nature’s way of recycling. Organic waste, such as food waste is biodegraded and turned into valuable fertilizer. This helps to cut down on food waste in bins, and can be used in gardens or farms to fertilize soil.

For example, the Armani Hotel Dubai actively composts, installing a food waste recycling machine that makes 15kg of compost from every 80kg of leftover dinners4.


4. Choose products with returnable, reusable or recyclable packaging

Chefs can cut down on packaging waste by choosing products that have minimal or recyclable packaging5.  White or transparent plastic is easier to recycle than coloured plastic and is more accepted by recycling companies.

Chefs can now sustainably switch to Maggi Professional food service products knowing that the plastic containers across all three sizes are recyclable by design and contain a total of 33% less plastic, compared to previous packaging.

The new packaging has changed from its distinctive red and yellow colour – to white to aid to the recycling process.


5. Make recycling easy by getting the bins right

The incorrect type and number of bins can mean the wrong waste is going in the wrong bin. To avoid confusion, restaurants can have separate bins for compost waste, paper waste, plastic waste and general waste.


Chefs can work together with staff to understand what goes in what bin, and team up with local businesses or food and waste recycling companies, if available, to help increase recycling rates.




1 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Case study: Collaborating to change local food systems:

2 Environmental Protection Agency, United States, Food Waste Tracking sheet:

3 The Global FoodBanking network:

4 Andy Jones, 2018, i newspaper, Hotels in Dubai are turning their leftover food into compost:

5 WRAP, Hotels: Taking Action on Waste: