What percentage of food is wasted by households and businesses in the HoReCa sector, and what are the underlying reasons? A survey, featuring an online questionnaire and personal interviews, was conducted in selected European countries (Greece, Serbia, and Croatia for households, and Greece, Cyprus, and Belgium for HoReCa businesses) as part of the ADVANCE Erasmus+ Project. The aim was to provide insights into this question.
As per the household survey, which collected approximately 150 responses, vegetables emerge as the most susceptible to waste, followed by fruit, starchy foods (e.g., potatoes, bread, rice, etc.), and sweets/desserts. More than half of the food is discarded after cooking, approximately 30% is wasted before cooking, and the remainder during food preparation. There is evident indication that inadequate planning of meal preparation leads households to overlook ready meals stored in the refrigerator. Consequently, a substantial portion of leftover food (over 35%), still suitable for consumption, ends up in waste bins. The management of unavoidable food waste mirrors patterns seen with food scraps. Most households do not segregate food waste from other waste due to the absence of organized waste management in their municipality.
While variations exist between the three surveyed countries, it is evident that food waste at the consumption stage is directly linked to consumer purchasing behavior.
Figure 1. Reasons why food is wasted (regarding the three types of food that are wasted the most)
Concerning the HORECA survey, approximately 130 questionnaires were gathered to assess the landscape. The generation of food waste in the industry is contingent on the volume of food purchased, meaning that a higher quantity of food purchased correlates with a greater amount of waste. Meat takes the lead in food waste, followed by vegetables and starchy foods. Nearly half of all food waste transpires during consumption, 25% during food preparation, and another 25% during food preservation. Food waste deemed unsuitable for consumption is typically discarded, accounting for about 75% of such waste.
Regarding food waste management practices, around 45% of businesses reported donating a portion to charity, 9% composting, 7% outsourcing, and 16% adopting alternative practices. Alarmingly, over half of the businesses dispose of some or all of their leftover food, with only a third stating that they frequently or very frequently provide customers with doggy bags for taking leftover food home. Approximately one in three businesses claim to have a separate collection system for organic/bio-waste, but significant variations exist among the three countries. Notably, a lack of available space was identified as a major barrier to implementing separate collection systems.
On a positive note, businesses believe that food waste in the industry has decreased compared to a decade ago, attributing this decline to increased experience in food management, heightened attention to cost considerations, and a growing environmental awareness. The primary motivations for industry companies to reduce food waste are primarily environmental and financial, with less emphasis on legislative requirements. Lastly, participants underscored that the most preferable measure to curb food waste is educating workers in the sector.
Figure 2. Percentage of food believed to be wasted during consumption, preparation and preservation
More detailed information about the research is available on the Project’s website (https://www.advance-foodwaste.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/T1_2_Implementation-of-surveys_all_final.pdf).