tables and chairs in an empty restaurant.
Facts about restaurant waste

Restaurant Waste Statistics

The UK is home to more than 43,000 full-service restaurants. If all the cafes, bars, and pubs that also serve food are included then there are more than 88,000 food outlets across the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Each one of these eateries generates all sorts of waste.

The entire food service industry creates more than 400,000 tonnes of avoidable waste every year. This includes mountains of leftover food from diners and wasted ingredients in the kitchen as well as waste oil, empty glass bottles, and discarded packaging. Restaurants are responsible for a big portion of all food service waste.

There are many things that restaurants can do to reduce waste in their businesses to save money and the environment. For starters, serve up some tasty titbits with these restaurant waste statistics and facts.

What causes restaurant waste?

There are three main causes of food waste in restaurants. These are preparation waste (kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings and offcuts), spoilage (expired ingredients), and plate waste (leftovers from diners). Good stock control and storage can reduce spoilage while proper portion sizes may limit leftovers.

Cooking and preparing meals also cause lots of oil waste, which is mostly unavoidable in restaurants. Cleaning the kitchen and restaurant to maintain high hygiene standards can lead to chemical waste and sanitary waste in the toilets. Every restaurant toilet must have a sanitary waste bin, so this is unavoidable.

Packaging is another big cause of various waste materials in restaurants. This includes cardboard boxes and wooden pallets for deliveries of ingredients and supplies. Glass waste is created by empty beer, wine, and soft drink bottles while there can be lots of plastic waste due to plastic drink and condiment bottles.

Some other causes of waste in restaurants include damaged tablecloths and old uniforms that create textile waste. Any broken kitchen appliances such as fridges, microwaves, and whisks are also a cause of WEEE. Then there’s paper waste from receipts, menus, and leaflets – though there are ways to reduce paper waste in restaurants.

How much food waste does 
a restaurant produce?

Restaurants in the UK produce nearly 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year through spoilage, preparation, and leftovers. The average restaurant food waste amount is between 4 and 10% of all food items purchased. This represents a massive waste of food, energy, and resources, as well as a significant financial hit for restaurants.

Tuck into some more restaurant food waste statistics:

  • The amount of food waste restaurants create is worth around £682 million in the UK
  • Globally around £2 trillion is lost from restaurants due to food waste
  • It’s estimated that 10% of food bought by restaurants never reaches customers
  • Almost half of all food waste takes place in the hospitality sector
  • There’s a big financial impact as 6% of total sales are lost through food waste in restaurants
  • Of the average food waste in a restaurant, 55% of leftovers are edible
  • Around 17% of food served to restaurant diners is left uneaten
  • Potatoes are the most wasted food ingredient in the UK
  • Food waste creates more than 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year
  • 25% of freshwater supplies around the world are used to grow food that is never eaten
How to reduce food waste
fancy food on a plate in a restaurant.

Restaurant waste facts

There’s the equivalent of one food outlet for every 767 adults in the UK, including restaurants, cafes, bars, and pubs that serve food. It’s food that creates the most waste in restaurants but other areas of the industry generate lots of rubbish too. Restaurant waste facts go beyond just food.

Now you’ve whet your appetite, dig into these restaurant waste facts:

  • Restaurants, bars, and pubs generate about 200,000 tonnes of glass waste annually – including bottles, condiment, and ingredient jars
  • The hospitality sector (of which restaurants comprise a big part) creates about 3 million tonnes of packaging waste every year
  • It also produces about 660,000 tonnes of other non-food waste like used disposable kitchen paper
  • Restaurants in the UK recycle around 73% of all glass and packaging waste
  • Cardboard can account for up to 25% of a restaurant’s non-food waste
  • According to WRAP, 56% of packaging and non-food waste gets thrown away with general waste that could (and should) be recycled
  • Nearly half of all restaurants are investing in inventory management software to reduce food and other waste
How to reduce restaurant waste

How much waste oil does 
a restaurant produce?

Small and medium-sized restaurants can use up to 20 litres of oil in a week. Industry-standard tabletop fryers use about 10 litres of oil. However, the amount of waste oil a restaurant produces will vary depending on a few factors. This includes the size and popularity of the restaurant, its cooking methods, and how much oil is used in the kitchen.

Restaurant plastic waste statistics

Plastic waste is created in restaurants through various activities. A common cause is packaging, such as plastic drink bottles, plastic bags and bottles containing ingredients, and even cleaning and soap bottles. The single use plastic ban in the UK has helped reduce waste associated with disposable items such as plastic straws.

Still, restaurants produce plastic waste in great amounts. See how much with these restaurant plastic waste statistics:

  • Most plastic waste produced by restaurants is single-use items such as cutlery and cups
  • Restaurants in the USA generate 11 million tonnes of plastic waste every year
  • Estimates suggest that 44% of plastic in our oceans is from takeaway food and drink containers and utensils
Explore more plastic waste facts
restaurant kitchen.

How should I get rid 
of restaurant waste?

Restaurants must arrange commercial waste collection of all rubbish they produce by licensed waste carriers to get rid of it safely, legally, and responsibly. You should use a range of bins to separate waste by material to ensure as much as possible is recycled and avoids landfill. This includes bins for food waste, glass recycling, dry mixed recycling, and more.

At Business Waste we can provide free bins for your restaurant anywhere in the UK – there are no delivery or hire fees, you only pay for collection. Then arrange removal by licensed waste carriers on a daily, weekly, or fortnightly schedule to suit your needs. We cover all of the UK.

All waste is kept away from landfill where possible and you receive a free duty of care certificate confirming responsible disposal. This can include transporting food waste to industrial composting sites and anaerobic digestion plants to create energy from waste. The likes of glass, cardboard, and other packaging are recycled.

Get a free quote for your restaurant waste collection today – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online. One of our friendly and expert team can advise on the best bin sizes and types and collection frequency based on the kind and size of restaurant you run to provide a bespoke price.

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