The hidden culprits of food waste can occur at all stages of the food lifecycle – before, during and after the event.
Click on a life cycle stage in the tabs above to start locating the typical hidden culprits for prepared food vendors.
Some sources of food waste exist before you even get to you event.
Ask yourself these questions:
Cleaning and sorting: When handling produce or meat does unexpected contamination occur? Is damage occuring during cleaning or sorting resulting in waste?
Processing: Are offcuts or excess meat or produce a result of processing practices? Does spoilage, contamination or spillage occur due to timing or inadequate infrastructure?
Packaging: Does produce or meat get damaged when you are packaging? Does packaging result in the creation of offcuts or excess?
Storing: Does any produce or meat spoil or lose freshness before use? Do you ever have cold chain failures or unexpected contamination?
Transporting: Does any produce or meat get damaged or spoiled during transportation?
Event Planning: Do you consider demand forecasting (market attendance)? Do you take into account the weather and what other stalls will be present?
Most food waste identified by stallholders occurs during the event.
Ask yourself these questions:
Unpacking: Does produce or meat ever get damaged or dropped when unpacking them at your stall?
Display: Do you prepare and display samples that are thrown out at the end of the day?
Even once the event is finished, there may still be sources of food waste.
Ask yourself these questions:
Surplus: Do you ever have produce or meat leftover that you can’t resell at another event?
Re-packing: Do you have equipment and materials to take home and reuse produce or meat?
Transporting: Does produce or meat ever get damaged, or experience cold chain failure, during transport home after the event?
Lack of market: Do you ever take home produce or meat that is then thrown out because there is no upcoming event?
In the busy life of a stallholder, these tips and solutions are designed to be included as part of your wider environmental commitments to customers and event organisers, or a starting point for embarking on a journey to becoming a waste wise stallholder.
Once you’ve located where you might have sources of food waste to save, click on the relevant areas below to see what you can do to start saving now!
Cleaning and sorting
- Prevent avoidable food waste by following good quality standards and instituting systems, training and ongoing monitoring.
- Consider if produce cross-contaminates, pests introduce disease or cause damage or sorting areas are too small causing bruising/spoiling
- Consider your market customers and willingness to pay for quirky or creative looking produce or lesser known cuts of meat or animal products
- Ensure you are processing produce or meat at the optimal time to minimise the chance of spoilage
- Follow quality and safety standards to avoid the spillage and contamination that can lead to waste
- Avoid excess trimming e.g. use as much of the meat, fish, herbs, vegetables and nuts as you can
- Consider how to repurpose edible trimmings as seeds, leaves, roots or bones could be an opportunity for your business or another stallholder you know
- Freeze excess produce such as berries for sale, consider on-selling leftover tomatoes for sauces or over-ripe fruit for juices and smoothies
- Consider whether produce with its own packaging needs to be trimmed e.g. cabbages or shelled e.g. pecans, a whole fish or bird sold in nutrient-rich skin rather than individual cuts
- Package food to optimise quality and freshness and minimise damage or spoiling
- Group items in your storage area to minimise handling and the opportunity for damage
- Ensure delivered food is stored quickly and appropriately to minimise damage or spoiling, especially fresh produce
- Regularly check temperatures and seals on fridges and freezers –a quick check each month could save you not only on waste bills, but also on energy bills
- Ensure your storage area space is dry and clean
- Review shelving practices: avoid damage from stacking fragile food items on top of each other, assign bottom shelves for liquids and food that might spill
- Ensure new produce or meat is placed at the back of the fridge, freezer or storage area to avoid the chance for spoilage
- Vacuum-pack products to extend shelf life and/or reduce odour
- Consider whether longer trips or side-trips on the way to market/event are occurring and if you are targeting the closest market/event to you
- Check suppliers (if applicable) and your own distribution equipment (refrigeration etc.) for transporting products is not contributing avoidable food waste
- Ensure the way you handle products does not cause damage – automation compared to manual handling may be a culprit (or vice versa)
- Send back damaged goods received from suppliers (if applicable) so they are aware of avoidable food waste during delivery to you
- Talk about food waste with the event organisers – there may be vendor agreements/clauses for waste , or awards to be won for environmental performance
- Consider contacting the local waste collection service to obtain costs of waste disposal by weight -are food waste is heavy and transportation can be costly
- Consider if the event will attract particular age groups, genders or families/ singles/ couples
- Consider how holidays, parallel events, other stalls and weather at the event can help you plan quantities
- Consider minimising samples that may be discarded at the end of the day
- Adequate refrigeration at the event can ensure produce and meat stay edible for long
- Provide bins for separation of avoidable food waste – more than one bin could help you reuse the avoidable and save on waste bills
- In the closing hours of the event, offer discounted produce or meat for free to avoid footing the bill for transportation and disposal
- Choose the right storage area and containers on-site at the event
- Provide feedback to event organisers after the event on avoidable food waste management and what they can do to help you in the future
- Plan for adequate transportation methods (e.g. refrigeration) both before and after the event
- Consider if transportation methods are causing damage to products being returned to storage after event
- When handling and storing food waste, follow food safety standards and consider health and safety e.g. lifting and carrying heavy containers
- Give leftover food to family and staff
- Donate to a food charity* (e.g. Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite) – discuss with your Event Organiser
- As a last resort:
- compost avoidable food waste
- generate energy through anaerobic digestion technologies (contact your local council for options)
- donate end-use compost to gardening or community sustainability groups to grow more food for you
*Note – before you donate food to a charitable or not-for-profit organisation you or the Event Organiser should contact that organisation to find out what they can or cannot accept
STEP 3. Create an Action Plan for your list of initiatives
From the list of potential initiatives in Step 2, begin with just one action from each stage and create a personalised and realistic list of actions that you can take. The simple Action Plan here might help you and allow you to designate who needs to take the action and when.