Food Waste: More Than A Money Gobbler

[Greener Museums Newsletter] Food Waste: More Than A Money Gobbler

Sent Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I hope you are having a great summer. Some exciting things are

happening over at Greener Museums. We’ve launched our second

Greener Museums Sustainability Leadership Programme in the North

West of England, and have welcomed ten new participants who are

representing their museums and museum services.


This month’s feature article is a guest post from a very special

guest–my mentee at the Garden Museum in London. The Garden Museum

was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund Award to create a four-year

Traineeship in the Sustainability of Heritage, and I am mentoring

this year’s trainee, Jade-Lauren Cawthray. Jade will tell us about

her experience learning about food waste and how to tackle it. To

your greener future,


Rachel Madan, Director of Greener Museums


Food Waste: More Than a Money Gobbler


Guest post by Jade-Lauren Cawthray, Trainee in the Sustainability

of Heritage


Based at the Garden Museum, I am the first trainee in the

Sustainability of Heritage and being interested in the utility of

the planet’s resources I aim to make the museum Zero Waste to

Landfill by April 2012.


One of the key areas of waste which is often overlooked in museums

is food waste. Food waste is generated in cafes and restaurants,

at events and conferences and from staff and visitor lunches.

Whilst recycling bins are becoming the norm, food waste bins seem

to have been overlooked and so food ends up at landfill. You may

be under the illusion that food decomposes at landfill, but the

“Garbage Project” at the University of Arizona has revealed that

landfill sites actually preserve organic waste, like the 15

year-old T-bone steak they found!


Food waste costs money; over-stocking and a lack of understanding

of food safety labels leads to the disposal of edible food, and

with leftovers, takes up valuable space in waste bins increasing

waste contract costs. But the impacts to the environment and our

global society are much larger. Exacerbated by the rapidly

increasing population, habitats are destroyed and people evicted

from their land to increase food production. Yet the UN estimates

that 925 million people will suffer from chronic hunger in 2011!

As a sector that celebrates the diversity of our planet we have an

innate responsibility to tackle this issue.


When I arrived at the Garden Museum in April 2011, only vegetable

peelings were composted for our garden. Since then we have

increased our composting capacity by providing training to staff

and soon we will have a wormery to process all other food waste,

including all cooked foods and lunch leftovers.


One of our caterers, Suzanne James Ltd, has a Zero Waste to

Landfill status. They carefully calculate food quantities to

ensure there is one portion per person, then add 10% to account for

extras. Food such as salads and desserts are prepared on site, as

and when they are needed, to preserve individual ingredients for

other uses. Cooked meat is packaged up to feed staff and all plate

waste is collected by a contractor to create top quality industrial

fertiliser. We aim to make this standard practice for all our



You can reduce your food waste by installing specific bins and

arranging a food waste collection from your museum. If you have a

garden, compost to create nutrition for your soil, but process a

T23 exemption to certify that you don’t need an environmental

permit as a waste handler. Cooked food waste that has not been

purchased can be given to staff and volunteers and examining food

purchasing, preparation and serving methods will identify

opportunities to reduce waste; see WRAP for advice and guidance.


The issue of food waste is about more than financial savings, it is

about environmental protection and social equality. By reducing

food waste we help protect the environment and promote fair

distribution of global resources.