United Against Waste / Switzerland

Clinics against Food Waste

Since 2013, United Against Waste in Switzerland has been fighting conceptually against the waste of food in clinics and other institutions.
imago images / Jochen Tack
Since 2013, United Against Waste in Switzerland has been fighting conceptually against the waste of food in clinics and other institutions.

Since 2013, the Swiss association "United Against Waste" has been committed to reducing food waste in canteen kitchens in clinics, senior citizens' facilities and institutions. A concept that bears fruit.

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Cultivation, trade and processing: At all stages of the food chain, one third of all food ends up in waste. Crooked carrots, stained apples and potatoes that are too small are already sorted out in the field. The canteen kitchen miscalculates, a mountain of ravioli must be disposed of. At the breakfast buffet, the plates are piled on top of each other, whatever has room - the leftovers end up in the garbage. As a result, around 300 kilograms of food per capita are thrown away every year in Switzerland.

Planning is the be-all and end-all

According to the organisation "United Against Waste", the main reasons for this food waste are difficulties in planning for professional chefs: many processes are well-rehearsed and cannot be adapted at short notice, the number of meals is often difficult to predict. Added to this are the high demands of the guests and the associated reluctance on the part of the catering trade to address the issue of food waste.

Advice brings solutions

In 2015, Switzerland, together with over 190 countries, adopted the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. With this, the countries commit themselves to achieving target number 12 for sustainable consumption and production patterns and to halving per capita food waste at retail and consumer level by 2030. Processors such as canteen kitchens are also required.

The association "United Against Waste – together against waste" has been working since 2013 to halve the amount of food waste in cooperation with food manufacturers, wholesalers and the catering and bakery industry. The organisation develops practical solutions, offers coaching against food waste and makes the results available to the industries. Managing Director Markus Hurschler: "Over the last six years we have made a name for ourselves in the catering industry as a competent consultant. Because we have drawn attention to the problem of food waste, restaurants and canteen kitchens are approaching us and we are looking for solutions together".

Individual measures

Today, the kitchen of the Cantonal Hospital Lucerne cooks smaller menus that are tailored to the patients' wishes.
Today, the kitchen of the Cantonal Hospital Lucerne cooks smaller menus that are tailored to the patients' wishes.

A first partner from the health sector of the "United Against Waste" campaign became the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital (KSL) in 2017. Together with a coach, the KSL evaluated and analyzed all its food waste for one month. Media spokesman Markus von Rotz: "In four weeks, 25 tons of leftovers accumulated". This number is on average of comparable canteen kitchens. With the measurement results in mind, the goal was set to reduce food waste by 30 percent to 17.5 tons per month. The catalogue of measures is individually tailored to the company by the coach; in the case of Lucerne it is a detailed list.

Continuous improvement

Today the portions are smaller, the standard breakfast, for example, has been reduced at the request of the patients. There has also been feedback from the rooms that have been admitted. Overall, the menu planning for the patients was made more flexible and revised so that less food waste is produced. "In a hospital where patients' needs can change at short notice due to health reasons, this was a challenge," says von Rotz.

For example, the size of the milk portions for the morning coffee has been greatly reduced, which has enabled the clinic to save 40 percent of the amount of milk previously consumed. In total, the hospital avoids over 100 tons of food per year that would otherwise have been disposed of. The goal of reducing food waste by 30 percent was even exceeded with 35 percent. But that is not all. A new survey was conducted in March 2020 to examine further measures. So the issue of food waste has not yet been resolved at the Cantonal Hospital in Lucerne.

Logistics optimized

 The Zurich University Hospital (USZ), one of the largest octopus houses in Switzerland, also joined forces with United Against Waste to combat food waste. At the end of 2018, USZ conducted coaching with the organisation in two bistros and cafes. After the four weeks of testing, the two bistros reduced their food waste by an average of 20 percent. A positive side effect is that the disposal costs for food waste were reduced by more than 27 percent. This amount is higher "because, for example, with soups you have to take into account the additional work involved in making them in our kitchen", explains David Weiermair, Food and Beverage Manager for the hotel industry at USZ. Producing less instead of throwing it away has saved a lot of money and time. To stick with the soups: USZ has, for example, improved the ordering accuracy and the process of the daily soup delivery and thus achieved that 14 to 20 litres less surplus are produced per day.