Questions about sustainability are on the minds of head chefs across Europe, especially since there are usually close connections between sustainability and economic efficiency. Whoever uses less energy and water, releases fewer emissions, and discharges less waste water, and is demanding with his staff but still treats them attentively, is working economically and at the same time environmentally friendly. Actually, sustainability is a solvable task.
By Dieter Mailander, mailander marketing.
In 2006, each of the almost 500,000,000 citizens in the European Union generated an average of 182 kg of food waste (cf. chart). The spectrum ranges from 44 kg in Greece to 349 kg in Cyprus (the data for The Netherlands and Belgium deviate sharply from the average and that’s why they are not considered here). The author of a study published in 2015 estimates that each European throw away between 45 and 153 kg of food per year: this is an average of 123 kg. They assume that 80% of this food is still probably edible and therefore doesn’t have to be thrown away.
The difference between 182 kg and 123 kg per person is tremendous. Has the awareness in Europe changed so much? Presumably, many end consumers and cooks are trying to deal with food on a more conscious level than in the past. But the decline can definitely not be explained by this. It can more likely be attributed to researchers having completed their data and evaluating them differently. In any case, 123 kg of food waste per person and year is a considerable amount too. It’s worth thinking about how this can be reduced.
Sustainability – Food Waste Reduction and Much More
Whoever reduces his or her food waste makes an important contribution to the sustainable management of his or her kitchen operations. This allows us to make the simple statement: It is sustainable as well as reasonable, if kitchen professionals just use so much from all of the non-renewable resources so that they are able to satisfy their guests, patients, or residents. It is also sustainable and reasonable to pollute waste water systems and the atmosphere as little as possible. This approach includes all of the areas of responsibility and persons in a commercial kitchen, in which resources are used or emissions are released. It includes the dealings with the staff as well as food selection, the efficiency of thermal, refrigeration equipment and dish washing systems, ventilation systems, lighting, or vending machines. Experts advise:[ii]
- Unlike earlier times, equipment with a high power input, in particular, reach their operating temperatures so fast that an energy-intensive stand by operation isn’t necessary any more. Such reserves also serve as a mean to cope with power peaks. High connected loads don’t inevitably mean high costs with modern equipment.
- Can lime deposits develop, which can be prevented, for instance, by water treatment facilities? Is the equipment descaled regularly, in case this doesn’t happen automatically?
- How efficient is the insulation of the equipment?
- Are the power circuits of the equipment separated?
- Are all of the costs (investment, operation costs, service, sales /disposal etc.) recorded over the entire run-time (full cost accounting)?
- Can all of the important performance data be verified in-house (test devices) and uninfluenced before purchasing? Will they be examined once more after being delivered in order to determine possible deviations?
- Do the devices (cook tops, heating shelves of meal distribution trolleys, etc.) recognize, which fields are being used?
- Can the energy input be regulated quickly and continuously?
- Are there favorable off-peak power tariffs, which can be used for long cooking processes over night at low temperatures?
- Which size of the equipment is appropriate for the operations? Do a number of smaller pieces of equipment make more sense for than a few large ones?
- Which places are suitable for setting up the equipment (cool surroundings, little dust, etc.)?
- Does the cooling unit have large power reserves?
- Do the employees know that the doors should be opened as seldom as possible and then should only be opened shortly?
- Is it known that refrigerators with glass doors usually use more electricity than others?
- Has it been checked, which savings effect do air curtain systems offer?
- Is the piece of equipment being kept clean? Ventilation openings should not be blocked or clogged.
- Have the people responsible ever conducted an in-depth analysis of the dishwashing processes: type, quantity and multiple usage of wash ware, return for wash ware, the contamination level, the daily run-time of the dishwashing systems / machines, load factor, capacity reserves, quality of the (waste) water / water treatment, (manual) pre-rinsing of the wash ware, etc.?
- Is the cleaning chemical coordinated with the dishwashing process? Is it dispensed precisely (if applicable, by way of a dosing system)?
- What effects can a heat exchanger achieve, which converts steam within the unit / machine into energy, which heats the inlet water for example?
- What effects can a heat pump achieve, which extracts excess heat and moisture from indoor air, cools it down, dries it and heats the water tank with the recovered energy for instance?
- Can the piece of equipment be connected to a hot water supply? If yes, can a piece of equipment with a lower power input be used?
In Germany, many kitchen professionals have a major problem finding qualified cooks and trainees. In 2013, every second training relationship for restaurant specialists and cooks was cancelled.[iii] Due to less attractive working hours and the frequent low pay in the gastronomy sector, the problem is more serious than in public catering. Perhaps it is similar in some countries in the European community. Progressive executive chefs rectify this by guaranteeing regular working hours including free weekends periodically in not too large intervals and by paying their employees properly. If they ensure that there is a good working environment in the kitchen, especially then, when the inevitable stress boils over, then they will continue to have good chances finding capable and committed employees.