86% OF takeaway salads chucked in the bin; a revolution in use-by dates and another in booking services that could both dramatically cut waste.
Almost every bagged salad offered by takeaway outlets is thrown straight in the bin. According to the waste management company BusinessWaste. co.uk, 99% of the limp lettuce leaves given to customers as they collect curries, kebabs and a variety of other street food are never eaten. “We tried to find out who eats these salads, and we found literally nobody prepared to confess that they did,” said the company’s spokesman Mark Hall. Why? Hygiene and quality come into it (perhaps slightly ironic for those frequenting “streetmeat” vans at 2am). But the most popular reason is: “Who wants a salad at closing time? Nobody, that’s who.” The solution? Don’t offer salads.
To zero waste
The first zero-waste restaurant in England will open this month in Brighton. Run by the chef Douglas McMaster, Silo will produce no waste and use no food that requires packaging. Milk will come in reusable esky coolers, vinegar and oil in jerry cans and dry goods in jam jars, according to local newspaper the Argus.
Show up the no-shows
In the UK up to a fifth of diners never turn up to the restaurant they have booked. This can be a minor irritant or a major problem depending on the size of the business and the type of fare. After all, an idea of who is coming and when allows owners to assess everything from staffing requirements to food procurement. So some high-end restaurants in the US have started to hit back at the no-shows. Next in Chicago, Trois Mec in Los Angeles and Coi in San Francisco now have a ticketing system whereby diners pay for a seat upfront and the cost is subtracted from their bill if they turn up. “People pay for tickets for entertainment,” Trois Mec’s director of marketing, Krissy Lefebvre, told the Los Angeles Times. “This just happens to be entertainment in the form of dinner.” Others see it as “irritating 95% of people because 5% aren’t showing up”. Could it also cut waste though?
Food labels have attracted their fair share of attention, not least the “best- before” and “use-by” confusion that is thought to fuel food waste. Indeed, supermarket chiefs interviewed in the Times this summer admitted to ignoring the dates on the food in their kitchen cupboards. “A sell-by date for lots of cheese is ridiculous – they get better with age,” said Dalton Philips, the CEO of Morrisons. Some countries in Europe are trying to push through legislation to axe best-before, starting with long-life products such as pasta, rice and coffee. However, a new label could change all that. The Bump Mark, designed by a 23-year-old graduate of Brunel University, features a bioreactive “bump” filled with gelatine. The gelatine starts solid, so bumps under the label can’t be felt, but as it decays the bumps are revealed. Its inventor, Solveiga Pakstaite, who has won the James Dyson award for her efforts, explains: “The label simply copies what the food in the package is doing, so the expiry information is going to be far more accurate than a printed date.” Of the 7m tonnes of food jettisoned by UK households, 4.2m could have been eaten.