·         3 in 5 (64%) hospitality businesses in the UK say circular economy is important to their daily activities, according to new research from sustainable waste management company Biffa 

·         Half (50%) of hospitality businesses utilise food waste reduction as a metric to measure sustainable progress 

·         Over a third (39%) hospitality businesses cite COST as the biggest barrier to being more sustainable, while 37% seek financial incentives  

New research from sustainable waste management company Biffa, with a survey conducted by YouGov Plc., shows strong positive attitudes to sustainability from the UK’s hospitality sector, but support is needed to help it realise its full potential. 

The survey of over 1000 UK businesses decision makers was conducted by the YouGov analysis institute, and reveals that 3 in 5 (60%) hospitality businesses in the UK believe that they participate in the circular economy. Moreover, 4 in 5 (85%) agree that waste management is important to being a sustainable organisation. In fact, half (50%) use reductions in food waste as a metric of measuring their sustainability. 

However, the UK’s hospitality sector is feeling the cost-of-living crisis. The industry cites a broad range of barriers preventing it from being more sustainable, including costs (35%), lack of time (23%) and infrastructure (22%). Over a third (34%) of hospitality decision-makers believe financial incentives would support them in meeting their sustainability goals, along with incentivised partnerships (22%), less regulation (20%) and support with data and reporting (20%). 

Mark Chapman, Head of Corporate Accounts – Dining, Biffa, commented: 

“Biffa’s survey results show that UK hospitality businesses of all sizes want to participate in the circular economy. Many have started their sustainability journey but see cost as a significant barrier. Biffa is a sustainable waste management company that works with customers to reduce waste, providing support up the supply chain to reduce packaging and surplus which not only protects the environment but can also save money.” 

The results come at a critical moment as the UK’s economy struggles, while the social and environmental cost of food waste mounts. The UK’s restaurants generate an estimated 1 million tonnes of food waste each year at a time when nearly 14 million people are struggling to eat. According to Guardians of Grub, 75% of the food wasted in the Hospitality and Food Service sector could have been eaten, so there is clear room for improvement.  Surplus stock is a major contributor to industry food waste volumes.  

Through Biffa’s surplus redistribution business Company Shop Group, 41,445 tonnes of food was saved from being thrown away in 2022, providing an equivalent of 6.7 million meals and saving 103,612 tonnes of CO2e – which is the same as taking 28,000 cars off the road.  Company Shop Group paid back £39m for its partners in 2022 alone, totalling £200m paid out in the last 10 years. Although other sectors such as manufacturing and retail are well established in surplus redistribution, there is a clear opportunity for hospitality businesses to get food that would otherwise be wasted to those that need it. 

Across the UK there are 14 Company Shop stores which operate as surplus food outlets, selling redistributed products at discounted prices to members including frontline workers from the NHS, Care and Emergency Services, Prison Service, British Armed Forces, Charity and the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods supply chain.  

Becky Farren, Business Development Manager at Biffa, commented: 

“Now more than ever the industry needs to come together to address issues such as surplus and the impending changes to our policy environment. At Biffa, we are proud to work with motivated businesses that share our ambition to reduce waste, recycle more, and where it cannot be avoided, to manage waste in the most sustainable way possible. For instance, finding solutions to unique challenges such as problem materials like mushroom trays and blue roll needs industry wide reform.”