Good practice

Leading on resource efficiency, Welsh government

Leading on resource efficiency, Welsh government
© Strider, #86529878, 2018, source:
Materials, Waste
Hotel and restaurant, Office and administration
Low cost
Annual saving:
Associated cost savings: Waste:
Co2 emission reduction:
16 tonnes
Premises and operation areas:
Office building
Size of company:
Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Tackling food waste as a priority

  • Welsh government explored ways to reduce food and packaging waste
  • Tackling food waste alone saves more than 16 tonnes of CO2 and over € 4 000 (£ 3 600) in costs per year

The Welsh government employs around 5 500 staff and provides catering services at 10 of its 38 locations. In 2012, WRAP undertook a Resource Optimisation Review to identify opportunities for improving resource efficiency and advised on the wording of a catering contract tender.

The government aims to take the lead on efforts to prevent and reduce waste. As well as the environmental benefits of reducing waste, this means achieving value for money for the public purse. Actions taken include food waste being sent to anaerobic digesters for energy, new serving systems to reduce food waste, better monitoring systems to generate an accurate picture of levels of food waste generated, and updated tender documentation to demonstrate the government's commitment to resource efficiency. These actions are explained in more detail.

Food waste: At 15.2 tonnes per year, the WRAP review quickly identified plate waste as the most significant source of food waste, with another 3.5 tonnes generated from production and out of date or unused food. The review suggested that the issue was mainly due to staff helping themselves to larger amounts of self-service items, such as salad or vegetables than they were actually able to eat.

WRAP proposed that food portions should be controlled by providing smaller scoops or ladles, educating staff on the issues around food waste, and relocating self-service areas to allow people to return for second helpings. It also recommended that food waste returned on trays should be sent for anaerobic digestion rather than being disposed of to sewer through the on-site macerator. This would cost nothing to implement but would result in a saving of more than 16 tonnes of CO2 equivalent and costs savings of over €4000 (£3600) per year.

Packaging: The WRAP review identified the site as exemplary at bulk ordering. Ordering of produce takes place three days ahead of production, with chefs employing the Eurest Source online recipe-planning tool. As a result, deliveries are kept to a minimum and intermediate packaging is curtailed. Where possible, suppliers are encouraged to deliver in returnable packaging – vegetables arrive in re-usable cages, while milk comes in returnable crates. Waste vegetable oil is sent back to the supplier, Brakes, in 20-litre containers for processing into bio-diesel. On delivery, roll cages are immediately taken to stores, checked, decanted and returned to suppliers.

However, disposable packaging still made up an estimated 1.7 tonnes, offering a significant opportunity to improve resource efficiency. Eliminating disposable packaging from landfill was estimated to represent a carbon saving of more than 2.7 tonnes per year, with cost savings of € 3 435 (£ 3 064).

Cup for life: Among the disposable packaging purchased with catering products, 122 720 disposable cups – 1373 kg – were thrown away by staff every year. To address this, the Welsh Government introduced a 17 cents (15 pence) levy on each purchase. Staff was spending around € 29 145(£ 26 000) on disposable cups.

The Facilities Management Team were keen to reduce the number of cups being used and also, where they were being used, to improve on the number of people recycling them rather than putting them into landfill waste. An initiative called A Cup for Life was launched, offering staff re-usable cups free of charge. 

Contract advice: The resource optimisation advice arrived at an opportune time. The Facilities Management Team were about to start retendering catering services, so they signed up to take this on board for any future catering contract arrangement. It helped the team to pull everything together in one succinct specification which will continue to evolve through the life of the contract.

One of the most notable features of the WRAP advice was the suggestion to give potential contractors the opportunity to be creative, asking for their solutions to maintaining choice while minimising food waste. They were also expected to identify opportunities to affect both service improvements and cost-saving initiatives. This was one of the key questions put into the tender evaluation process and led to some interesting proposals. For example, they might only guarantee 70 % of the choice for the last half hour of service rather than offering full service throughout the whole day.

The Welsh government included a range of key performance indicators, to be reported monthly and supported by data from waste service providers, suppliers and utility metering.

Key benefits

  • Significant cost savings
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Less packaging waste and food wastage to landfill
  • Accurate figures to assist in monitoring and tracking progress

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