It’s time we re-define ‘food waste’

Waste, Verb

  1. to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose

Surplus, Adj

  1. more than what is needed or used; excess

What does food waste mean to you? For many the simple misuse of the word ‘waste’ conjures up thoughts of out of date, inedible food that should be condemned to the bin, something which is far too often not the case.

It’s time for the industry, its workers and society in general to move away from the term ‘waste’ when what we in fact mean to say, is surplus. Surplus, in contrast to waste, is saving food from being offloaded to the bins or going to waste, I think you’ll agree, a completely different meaning.

Surplus food also provides a much more appetising (pardon the pun) mental image and is a more accurate representation of what has usually been freshly prepared or purchased only a few hours earlier. By using the word waste we provide justification for discarding something that is perfectly edible and if used intelligently, can be as delicious as anything else we would eat.

A huge emphasis has been placed on sustainable, ethical food in the last decade and producers, restaurateurs and chefs are now far more aware of these issues, and by introducing the term ‘surplus food’, are defining a new era in tackling food waste. Being a responsible supplier is as important for the welfare and representation of a brand as it is to the diners and stake holders who are increasingly demanding it.

With 8.4 million people in the UK struggling to afford to eat* and at least 270,000 tonnes of surplus food from the UK food and drink industry*it’s doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a very solvable problem. This has led to a visible increase in food charities dedicated to tackling the food waste issue.

Charities such as Fareshare are working with supermarkets and retailers to redistribute fresh, quality and in-date surplus food and stopping perfectly good produce from going to waste. The food that they redistribute is of a standard that any professional chef or home cook would be happy to use and I’m sure the general public would be shocked at the volume, quality and worth of food that is discarded.

Everyone deserves access to healthy and fresh produce to cook and eat and the industry is continually working to encourage restaurants and retailers to live within their means. This can be difficult when budgeting and estimating guest numbers, but so long as those with food purchasing power are ensuring they plan for potential waste (whether it is re-using ingredients in other dishes, or working in partnership with charities to re-distribute anything surplus and in date), we can massively reduce the amount of people who are struggling to eat.

As with most social revolutions, the first step is changing people’s attitudes. By re-defining surplus food’s image and minimising the use of the term ‘food waste’ we can essentially reframe a problem and dramatically reduce the amount of perfectly edible food that goes to landfill each year, something we can all agree is better for everyone.

* Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Voices of the Hungry, 2016

**WRAP, Qualification of food surplus, waste and related materials in the grocery supply chain, 2016


Written by Tom Gore
Heavily influenced by his global culinary experiences, from working in kitchens all over the world, Tom’s ethos is to keep the basis of his dishes simple and use classic flavours, to create recipes with unusual combinations to a fine-dining standard.

Bringing his vitality and passion to the kitchen, Tom has pushed the boundaries of clients’ expectations for conferences and events, and working with his brigade of chefs, cater for all in-house events from private parties to award ceremonies and conferences for up to 1,000.



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