Resource Use

RES launches food waste calculator for NHS Scotland

Resource Efficient Scotland (RES), Zero Waste Scotland’s advice and support service for boosting resource efficiency, has launched a new food waste calculator to help NHS Scotland (NHSS) hospitals determine ‘the potential financial impact of implementing different methods of managing food waste within the hospital, and the different methods for treating the waste’.

By comparing different food waste treatments with existing food waste management practices, the calculator allows a user to take account of the amount of waste produced by a hospital (based on the number of beds and adjusted depending on whether the hospital prepares food on-site using raw ingredients or receives its food from a cook and freeze production unit (CFPU)), and considers the impact of a hospital or CFPU receiving additional food waste via the introduction of a reverse logistics system (i.e. sending food waste out for recycling in the trucks that deliver the food in the first place).

It also takes account of the cost of collecting food waste and the internal management, labour, and professional support costs to implementing the new system.

The calculator aims to help hospitals identify the cost of changing food waste management practices so that they comply with the requirements of the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations. These require all Scottish hospitals producing over five kilogrammes of food waste per week to separate food waste for recycling from January 2016.   

NHS food waste management report

Aside from the food waste calculator, RES has also released a report outlining how hospitals could benefit from increased cooperation in how they manage food waste.

The ‘Managing NHSS Food Waste’ report was commissioned by Resource Efficient Scotland, in partnership with Health Facilities Scotland, to ‘improve understanding of food waste collection requirements in NHS Scotland hospitals’.

Conducted by the Organic Resource Agency (ORA) Ltd, the research involved a survey of 33 hospitals across six board areas to determine the potential impacts and benefits that could result from changing food waste disposal to food waste collection or onsite treatment solutions.

The report outlines that under the new waste regulations, disposing of food waste through the following practices will be illegal:

  • disposing of waste into sewers via sink macerators;
  • sending food waste to landfill through general waste collections;
  • sorting food waste through mechanical biological treatment (MBT); and
  • recovering food waste for energy via incineration.

However, it notes that by introducing separate food waste recycling collections, reverse logistics, or on-site treatment and pre-treatment options, hospitals could bring themselves into compliance.

The option of treating food waste on-site was considered in the research, but it was determined that for the majority of hospitals, the ‘relatively high capital and operating costs’ of installing food waste treatment facilities (such as anaerobic digestion (AD) or in-vessel composting (IVC)) were likely to ‘outweigh any advantages in terms of savings against collection and/or off-site treatment, or any revenue that might be achieved from electricity generation’.

Instead, RES suggests that resources would be ‘better concentrated on other, more widely applicable options for managing food waste’, such as the ones listed above. However, on-site treatment options have been included in the hospital food waste calculator tool, as there may be some occasions were on-site treatment is the cheapest option – for example, for hospitals in ‘remote areas distant from off-site treatment facilities’, or where exceptionally large amounts of food waste are produced.

Hospitals could benefit from greater collaboration

The report also highlights that ‘greater collaboration’ could help Scottish hospitals deal with food waste in a cost-efficient manner.

Suggested areas of cooperation between hospitals include:

  • sharing practical experience and knowledge on food waste systems;
  • sharing waste management technology within boards (e.g. dewatering equipment);
  • coordinating the installation of any technology needed to treat/separate food waste (thus reducing call-out costs);
  • coordinating and sharing waste collections services (so that a waste collection vehicle could stop at several hospitals rather than just one, boosting efficiency); and
  • sending food waste from several hospitals to a central facility and sharing processing costs.

The report also outlines that as most businesses will be required to present their waste for separate collection two years before hospitals, there is potential for hospitals to join already established food waste collection schemes, rather than starting from scratch.

RES concludes that hospital board should take a series of steps to find an appropriate food waste management system for the hospital (or group of hospitals within or between adjacent board areas). These are:

  • gathering information on food waste
  • assessing the potential benefits of cooperating with other hospitals or organisations;
  • reviewing the ‘most appropriate’ option, based on the specific needs of the hospital(s); and
  • sending contracts out for tender.

Report is ‘invaluable’ in preparing for compliance

Marissa Lippiatt, Head of Resource Efficient Scotland, commented: “The report and calculator together provide comprehensive guidance for health boards in Scotland to help them take practical action to improve their food waste management. This will help them to meet the requirements of the Waste (Scotland) regulations, which come into force for the NHSS from January 2016.” 

John Green, Chair of Health Facilities Scotland’s Waste Management Steering Group, added: “In continually seeking to improve its sustainability performance, NHS Scotland Boards value the ongoing partnership and support which has developed between Zero Waste Scotland/Resource Efficient Scotland and the HFS Waste Management Steering Group.

“In the last year, the benefits of that work are now being felt across the healthcare estate. Boards have actively engaged in and welcome the food waste calculator tool and this report, which, in addition to further advice and support from RES and contractors, will be invaluable in further assisting their preparations for compliance with the challenging requirements in the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012.”

Resource Efficient Scotland will be engaging with all NHSS boards throughout 2014 as they apply the findings to their properties and to support their endeavours to adhere to the new regulations. 

Read the ‘Managing NHSS Food Waste’ report or use the food waste calculator.