Waste disposal in food and beverage

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Waste disposal in the food and beverage industry

It is estimated that the hospitality and food industry produces 1.1 million tonnes of food waste each year. Food waste poses a significant environmental problem, as rotting food in landfills produces methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas.


Waste management in food and beverage

All restaurants and pubs are legally obligated to manage waste following the waste hierarchy. However, unlike other sectors, the UK government has produced specific statutory guidance for waste management in the food and beverage sector. This reflects the fact that food sent to landfills produces methane, which has huge negative environmental consequences.

We’ve distilled the government’s advice into actionable steps that can be applied to establishments selling food.

Source: UK Government – Food and drink waste hierarchy: deal with surplus and waste


The key to preventing commercial food waste is the effective management of inventory purchases to minimise surpluses. Regular monitoring of what gets used and what doesn’t can help you adjust orders and menu offerings accordingly. The Guardians of Grub (a part of the government-backed organisation WRAP) has published an excellent menu planning guide that will help you reduce food waste and improve profitability.


Local charities, food banks or other community initiatives are typically best positioned to redistribute any safe and edible leftovers. Here’s a link to a tool for finding a local food bank. It’s important to note that you must not donate food past its used-by date.


Although recycling food waste doesn’t work in the traditional sense, there are two important ways to utilise leftover food: anaerobic digestion and composting. In some towns, you may find opportunities to contribute to community composting projects. Alternatively, your commercial waste disposal provider is typically best placed to transport your food waste to a local anaerobic digestion facility.

There are now specialist facilities that convert spent coffee grounds into biofuel.


All food waste should be retained and stored separately from other waste and recyclables. A reputable commercial waste collection company will provide appropriate food waste bins for storage ahead of their regular collections. Your provider will give you a waste transfer note to demonstrate you’ve fulfilled your compliance obligations in disposing of the food waste.

Discover potential savings by requesting commercial waste quotes today. Start by simply entering your postcode into our smart address finder above.

Types of waste disposal in food and beverage

Here are the top six types of waste disposal typical to restaurants, pubs and bars. To comply with the Duty of Care regulations, each waste category must be stored separately to avoid contamination with other waste types.



Restaurants inevitably produce food waste due to the necessity of purchasing perishable food inventory in advance, anticipating daily covers and menu choices.



Restaurants are legally allowed to dispose of liquid waste into the sewers, as it is classified as domestic sewage. However, food processing companies are required to obtain trade effluent consent for such disposal.




Food purchases often arrive wrapped in plastic, ensuring ingredient freshness but consequently resulting in significant quantities of difficult-to-recycle plastic waste.



Restaurants generate paper waste through the use of disposable items like napkins, paper towels, and menus, as well as from administrative materials such as receipts and order slips.



Restaurants and pubs generate substantial volumes of commercial glass recycling, stemming both from bottles of beer and wine sold to customers, and from broken table glassware.

<h3>Cooking oil</h3>

Cooking oil

Restaurants have the option to recycle their cooking oil, and in fact, local waste collection firms may offer payment to collect this oil, which is then used to produce biofuel.

The financial benefit of effective waste management in food and beverage

Waste management in most sectors is a matter of compliance. The government sets rules that dictate how waste must be stored and disposed of, and as a responsible business owner, you follow these. However, in the food and beverage sector, the story is different. Effective waste management in a restaurant can significantly enhance financial outcomes.

Our Director, Ben Brading, a Chartered Accountant, explains why:

At the top of the government’s waste hierarchy is ‘prevention’, as the most effective form of waste management for restaurants is to purchase ingredients efficiently, resulting in fewer leftovers. Efficiently managing food purchases not only reduces leftovers but also cuts costs.

According to WRAP data, the average cost of avoidable food waste per cover is 97 pence. While this may seem trivial, it amounts to £3.2 billion annually for the industry as a whole.

Eliminating avoidable food waste directly improves a restaurant’s gross profit margin by reducing direct costs while maintaining customer charges. A secondary benefit occurs in operating costs, where you’ll reduce business waste collection costs by reducing your exposure to the landfill tax.