Reducing food waste in company canteens: a collective guide to take action

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It appears that one third of the food produced worldwide, representing 1.3 billion tonnes, goes to waste. This waste has serious environmental and financial impacts and has prompted a genuine rise in awareness. Initiatives to combat the phenomenon are on the increase. They target individuals, but also business and collective catering, in supermarkets, cafés and company canteens.
On the occasion of the 2016 OSCEdays, SUEZ, its partners and Future Of Waste (1) co-authored a downloadable guide to help company canteens to reduce waste. Focus on this unique collaborative experiment.

Concrete solutions to reduce food waste in company canteens

Food waste represents a loss of 10 million tonnes per year in France, of which 1.5 million tons come from collective and commercial catering. Reducing food waste in this sector often raises serious logistical issues, in particular due to the legal responsibilities surrounding food donations.

What better playing field to invent and test new solutions than the La Défense business district near Paris, with its 147,000 permanent workers present every day? An estimated 12 to 16 tonnes of food still fit for consumption would be thrown away every day by the business district’s company canteens. This is the reason why the workshop organised by SUEZ and Future of Waste during the OSCEdays concentrated on this district, which is also home to SUEZ’s headquarters.

The workshop explored two working areas:

  • “upstream” reduction, consisting of optimising the logistical chain to reduce the production of food waste,
  •  “downstream” reduction, for example by making food donations to vulnerable populations, in particular through NGOs. This solution is still infrequent amongst the players in the collective catering game.

The operational guide resulting from these discussions is intended mainly for company canteen operators, but it may also be of interest to any professional in the sector. It contains detailed information, the contact details of key players in the field and examples of concrete actions.
Making more accurate estimates of the numbers of diners, rearranging the layout, changing the prices … discover all the solutions proposed in the guide downloadable:

  • Collective guide - Reduction of food waste 1MB docx

A collaborative production process

The Open Source Circular Economy Days (OSCEdays), which have been held in June for the last two years, are a worldwide, decentralised event, where everyone (companies, NGOs, start-ups, individuals, etc.) is invited, on their own particular scale, to create a meeting, a workshop or an activity on the circular economy. The results of the various events are distributed to everyone in open source.

As a partner of the event in Paris with Future of Waste, SUEZ organised two workshops in June 2016 on the following challenges:

  • How to create a game for the general public that will raise awareness of the importance of sorting waste?
  • How to combat food waste in the company canteens in La Défense, Europe’s largest business district?

The discussions during the second workshop resulted in the production of this guide. The workshop brought together partners from varying backgrounds, who all input their knowledge and ideas:

  • professionals from the collective catering sector, the Quality Manager and the Engagement Director from MRS (the catering company that operates the company canteen at SUEZ head office in La Défense), the Manager of the tower’s occupants syndicate, as well as Myriam Fabioux, a catering consultant and the founder of the NCIS consultancy firm, and Didier Girard from Le Mans hospital,
  • entrepreneurs and members of NGOs engaged in the combat against food waste: Julien Meymon from Chaînon Manquant, Caroline Delboy from Whatthefood/DiscoSoupe and Ludivine Vajou from TakeAway,
  • internal experts from SUEZ, specialised in sustainable development, logistics or waste recovery.
  • The workshop was hosted by Elsa Gehanne from MakeSense

Click on the video to take a peek behind the scenes of the workshop!

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(1) The Future of Waste programme was launched by SUEZ and MakeSense in 2014 to encourage and promote alternative solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.


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