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sustainable waste management

How much waste is produced across sectors in Britain?

Having a waste management strategy put in place is often overlooked throughout business operations. Sometimes, it is something that eager entrepreneurs don’t consider when they’re setting up their own businesses. We look to find out what different businesses in different industries do to get rid of their waste and how much it is costing them as a whole in the UK.

Businesses have one thing in common – to make money and not spend too much of it in the process – this formula is one step closer to success. One way to reduce unnecessary costs is to have your waste effectively managed. This means working with a waste management company that can draw up a profile of your business and calculate the amount of waste your company generates – and creates a more reliable and bespoke collection routine that better meets your business needs.

Narrowing it down

Across Britain in 2014, commercial and industrial industries produced almost 30 million tonnes of waste. 19.8 million tonnes from this was from England alone with 11.1 million tonnes coming from the commercial sector and 8.7 million tonnes from the industrial. When looking to the UK entirely, we can see that the commercial sector produced 15.1 million tonnes and the industrial produced 12.6 million tonnes.

In 2012, those working in construction, demolition and excavation created 108.8 million tonnes of waste which rose to 120.4 million tonnes in 2014 (a 10.6% increase). This sector generated over 60% of the UK’s total waste. According to Wrap, 400 million tonnes of material is used across construction projects annually, leading to 100 million tonnes of waste being produced — accounting for more than one-third of the UK’s entire wastage total. Looking at landfills across Britain, we found that only 25 million tonnes worth of waste is sent there.

A 9% increase was recorded for those working in mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing in the UK in 2014. In 2012, we saw 24.7 million tonnes of waste and then in 2016, 26.9 million tonnes.

Britain produced more waste in 2014 in comparison to 2012, with a 4.6% increase leaving us with a massive 202.8 million tonnes of waste.

With the help of Reconomy, sustainable waste management experts the UK, we take a look at different sectors across the country to see how much waste, including food waste is being produced and how much it is costing to get rid of it:

Restaurants and pubs

Including food procurement, labour, utilities and management cost – research carried out by Wrap suggests that food waste costs the UK £682 million each year (£3,500 per tonne). In relation to restaurants in the UK, we can see that 51% of waste is recycled, 65% of it being packaging.

Restaurants in the UK produce 915,400 tonnes of waste every year and 199,100 tonnes of this is food waste.

Pubs produce 873,000 tonnes of waste with only 173,000 of it being classed as food waste here in the UK. We found out that 63% of this waste is recycled. The average pub can see a cost of £8,000 per year to get rid of food waste from their premises.


At a cost of around £4,000 per ton – hoteliers spend around £318 million on food waste including management solutions, labour, procurement and utilities. This sector produces around 289,700 tonnes of waste each year which 79,000 of it is food waste.


The healthcare industry on an annual basis does not recycle as much as you’d expect – with only 7% of overall waste being recycled. Food waste costs the healthcare sector £230 million each year – £1,900 per tonne.

Every year, the healthcare sector generates 170,300 tonnes of waste which a large 121,000 of it belongs to food waste.

Battling the issue of food waste

If you are a business that produces a lot of food waste and want to make calculations to see how much you’re producing – follow this guide:

Begin with separating your food waste so that you can later weigh the amounts up to see how much of what you are using. Use three different bins to collect this data, waste for food preparation, spoilage and then the leftovers from your customers plates. Use the data you have collected and multiply this figure by the amount it costs per tonne and this will tell you how much it is costing your business each year.

Generic estimates for the sectors above regarding the type of food waste produced are as followed:

  • Food preparation – 45%.
  • Spoilage – 21%.
  • Customer plates – 34%.

There are methods that businesses can take to lower the amount of food waste that they produce. One problem that restaurants and cafes often shy away from addressing is the size of their menu; the bigger the menu, the more ingredients you buy – and the more that can be wasted. Take a step in the right direction by looking at your customer patterns – what are they ordering? From this, you will be able to remove the dishes that do not add value to your menu.

If you find yourself still producing a high amount of food waste, it could be due to your portion sizes. Reducing the size of your meals even slightly is a simple step to take that could help reduce costs for your business.

When you’re shopping for ingredients, it’s important to buy the amount you need. Don’t get sucked in by your supplier’s special offers—it’s only a good deal if you’ll use the produce. If not, it will end up going in the bin – costing your business more money in the long run. Buy long-lasting ingredients that are vital in your kitchen such as spices and buy fresh food only as you need.

To give something back to the community, you could donate any edible foods to a homelessness organisation. You could even donate leftovers to a local farm to feed their animals if appropriate. Both could be beneficial to you as a business as you will be reducing waste whilst helping the environment.

Where does the government stand on waste?

The UK wants to become a zero-waste economy where the resources that we have are used to their full potential – gaining the greatest value from them. This means we will have to be harder on how much we reduce, reuse and recycle and only ever throw things away as a last resort.

Companies now have responsibility with the amount of waste that they produce and must encourage changes that will help with waste reduction. This includes keeping their waste to a minimum. They are also obliged to sort their waste out in the appropriate way and then store it correctly for when it leaves your businesses building. When this happens, you must complete a waste transfer note for each load of waste that is removed from your location. Make sure that your chosen waste carrier is registered to dispose waste and if they are not, first and foremost you shouldn’t use them.  You then have a duty to report them to Crimestoppers as they will be disposing of your waste illegally and this can be damaging to the environment. By following the above advice, the UK can make a step in the right direction to achieve the goal they have to become a zero-waste economy.