[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
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.