Spilling the beans on how to harness hotel food waste

A900 Rocket Composter in the Maldives

With environmental consciousness and responsibility a key focus area on the hospitality and food sector’s agenda (HaFS), our sales manager Huw Crampton explores how one luxury hotel has utilised its organic surplus to create an efficient, closed-loop model, and what other hotel brands can do to achieve this themselves.

The fast-paced nature of the HaFS industry means that it is one of the most heavily impacted where wastage is concerned, with approximately 40% of its yearly surplus attributed to food – a figure which is even higher when entering luxury resort territory.

With an estimated 1 million tonnes of food waste – equating to £2.9 billion – being generated each year from the HaFS arena in the UK alone, hotels are rightly asking themselves how to reduce and manage their organic excess, so they’re not faced with high disposal costs as well as the guilt of creating a negative environmental impact.

However, whilst there’s no disputing that food waste is a terrible global issue, it’s important to stress that hotels that generate a lot of waste aren’t purposefully “wasteful”, rather their waste is a naturally occurring by-product of their requisite to use fresh produce – this is particularly pertinent to the luxury hotel sector.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that more and more hotels – both in the UK and overseas – are diverting their attention towards employing a more effective and profitable waste management strategy.

Compost used to grow fruit and vegetables in the resort garden

International context – Maldives

A remote resort with stunning white beaches, crystalline waters and towering palm trees is a common find in the glamorous Maldives, but unfortunately a more unsightly and odorous reality exists just a short sea journey away on the island of Thilafushi – the only municipal landfill site across the 900,000 square kilometre archipelago.

With a population of 300,000 and over 1 million tourists visiting the Maldives every year, there’s no doubting that having a single landfill site poses many problems to the economy and of course, the environment.

Despite this alarming problem, it is encouraging to see an increasing number of hotels and resorts assuming environmental responsibility for their business and seeking ways to remedy the food waste issue, by taking matters into their own hands.

Luxury Maldivian island resort Gili Lankanfushi is one example which is leading the way in showcasing an elevated level of eco-consciousness, with the entire resort built using environmentally-friendly and sustainably-sourced materials. And back in 2015, the luxury resort decided to further cement its sustainability commitment and tackle its problematic food waste issue, turning to Tidy Planet for advice on a tailored on-site solution.

As with almost all 5-star getaways, Gili Lankanfushi’s unique selling point is its idyllic remoteness and first-class customer experience, but with an elite service offering comes higher consumer expectation of a readily available stream of fresh produce, which then poses the question to hotels: “How can our food waste be dealt with?”

Achieving and maintaining its premium reputation meant that 300 kilos of food surplus was being generated each day – a staggering 109,500 kilos annually. This then saw the hotel with no other sustainable alternative other than to send its wastes to Thilafushi to be landfilled – something which greatly misaligned with the resort’s ecological ethos.

It therefore sought a technological solution which would alleviate its waste headache, as well as create a useful resource. In Gili Lankanfushi’s case, it was in the form of compost, which would support its fruit and vegetable growing project in the resort garden.

It therefore invested in two of our waste solutions – the A900 Rocket Composter and Dehydra Dewaterer.

The separation of the food waste now starts in the kitchen, where wet and dry waste is segregated into two bins. This is then processed through the dewatering machine – reducing its volume by up to 80% – before the dried substance is fed into the Rocket for composting.

On an island where sand is plentiful but soil is scarce, this organic output provides the nutrients, structure and moisture retention needed for a successful compost foundation, enabling the resort to become self-sufficient and boost its ecological credentials as a consequence.

Rockat Composter training at Gili Lankanfushi

Closing the loop

After the equipment was installed in May 2016, the hotel reaped immediate results. The site started composting at the end of June and just weeks later produced its first batch of ready-to-use compost.

Its investment in the A900 Rocket Composter and the Dehdra Dewaterer provided them with a low-power, immediate solution, which now allows them to take full advantage of every kilogram of organic waste outputted from its restaurants and kitchens.

The resort’s dedicated approach to reducing its environmental impact saw it scoop the Haute Granduer Global Hotel and Spa award for the world’s most eco-friendly hotel, in 2017. And further to the technology’s installation, the resort now composts 100% of its organic material, meaning no more storage difficulties and hefty off-shore shipping or disposal costs.

It is very uplifting to see that many other Maldivian islands are taking a leaf out of Gili Lankanfushi’s book, pursuing their own organic recycling routes with Tidy Planet’s technologies – a market which we forecast to expand greatly over the next 5 years.

Soil resource from the A900 Rocket Composter

Waste not, want not

All too often, hotels simply look at the volume of organic waste they create and look for a more cost-effective alternative supplier to deal with the disposal. But for hotels to successfully examine their waste management model and implement an optimised closed-loop version, it’s imperative that time is taken to look in depth at each stage of a supply chain.

For every organic material stream produced, hotels should assess the steps that can be taken to reduce the creation of waste at source. If the catalyst of the waste issue can be identified, this will enable improvements to be made, whether to purchasing or food handling processes, or even kitchen-specific advancements. However, if the generation of surplus food is inevitable, it is then crucial to prioritise and assess exactly how to harness the resource value of this organic matter – in which case, on-site composting could provide the answer.

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