Circular economy: BASF Gastronomy reduces food waste
It is shortly before 11:30 a.m., “rush hour” at the BASF canteen Feierabendhaus. The kitchen team is prepared for the daily onslaught and ensures that the food serving areas remain well stocked. Over the next two hours, around 800 meals will be served here. Once the lunch break is over, a lot of dirty dishes and food scraps are left behind. While the dishes are unavoidable, the food waste can at least be reduced, says kitchen manager Thomas Oberbeck (FHG/CR).
Oberbeck, who has been in his position for 12 years, plans the menus and food purchases to minimize waste. Since the end of February, a new IT system called Winnow has been helping to pinpoint which food is being thrown away and why. There are 150 dishes, including the value of the goods, entered in the system. Food waste must be recorded in the system before it can be thrown into a collection bin.
The tracker measures the weight of the waste and saves it in the corresponding software, then it analyzes the value and costs of the unconsumed food. Oberbeck’s team uses these numbers for daily planning as well as in the longer term to save money and conserve resources when purchasing. “We previously tried to keep track of this data by hand and we were doing fairly well. But now we have precise calculations, down to the gram and cent. That is an enormous help,” says Oberbeck. At the Feierabendhaus canteen, BASF Gastronomy has now managed to get the rate of food waste down to just 2.2 percent of the total goods purchased. Prior to the implementation of Winnow, the figure was 3 percent. The kitchen team has identified some areas to work on, such as preparing only the dishes that guests actually eat. Or, taking prepared food that did not get served in the canteen, cooling it overnight and using in other dishes the following day. And raising awareness among guests to leave less left-over food on their plates or to ask for a smaller portion at the counter.
Over an entire year, this can save around three metric tons of food, equivalent to 7,500 meals or 12.8 metric tons of CO2. That is an impressive result. Most industrial kitchens produce far more wastage. The German Federal Environment Agency estimates that around one-third of all food prepared in the food away from home (FAFH) segment – i.e., in cafeterias and restaurants as well as catering – eventually ends up in the garbage.
But even the food that still ends up as waste gets put to good use by BASF Gastronomy: Starting a few weeks ago, this food has been used to make compost, a valuable resource from which new plant life can grow. A high-tech composter, the model EC-100 from the company Ecocreation, turns food scraps into compost within 24 hours. Bacteria, heat and rotating stainless steel screws transform the food waste into dry compost, which has only 15 percent of the volume of the original waste. This means the waste management firm now has to make fewer trips to Feierabendhaus, which reduces traffic, saves money and lowers emissions.