Food Wastage at Work - Should I Call People on This?

I work in a large company we have a staff cafeteria with buffet lunch/dinner served. It's a free meal for anyone on shift. There's no signage about wastage and no one seems to care, yet I do.

There are two large bins often to get rid of waste foods for myself usually in-edibles such as bones and the like however I'd say at least 30% of people are throwing away perfectly good food, they've just put too much on their plate some even have almost untouched plates of food going straight into the bin. I was always raised to eat everything on the plate as not to waste anything and I can't recall a time I've thrown anything from the plate (maybe a rotten veggie or 2 I haven't cooked from fridge).

It seriously irks me yet I am not confrontational. Do you think I should call people up on this obvious wastage? (Or am I just being a wastage prude?)

I don't see the harm in taking just what you need and nothing more.

*(poll not pole)

Poll Options

  • 57
  • 12
  • 47
    This is a silly pole


  • +6

    How much do you want to change jobs?

    • +9

      Agreed. This touches on a pretty relevant point; how progressive is your company culture?

      Where I work, things are very progressive regarding waste, recycling, food composting, recyclable coffee cups, etc.

      However, if you work in a pretty old school place, with established behavior, you might just rub people the wrong way.

      • Any idea if these coffee cups and lids are recyclable

        I have been putting the clearly clean and minimally soiled ones into the paper and cardboard only big blue bin but if it is super soiled and have coffee grounds all over it I just usually landfill it which is usually the big red bin.

        Also with plastic bottles is the whole bottle and lid recyclable or just the bottle and the lid is not recyclable and goes to landfill aka red bin.

        I need to know what I can and cannot recycle as this is part of my duties at work.

        I know for example that waxed paper usually posters and calendars are not recyclable and go to general waste.

        Coffee stirrers aka paddle pop sticks go to recycle I think unless covered in coffee or other stuff.

        I rinse some cups out to make it recyclable but can't do it forfor everything as it would waste too much water I think and make the kitchen sink disgusting rinsing all the crap from cigarettes ashes to left over coffee to sometimes just crystallized melted coffee / sugar those I just landfill it into the red bin general waste.

        Wish there was a list or chart for all these recycling informations because at my work it lists some but leaves some main ones like coffee cup lids, coffee cups themselves and plastic bottle lids and what not.

  • +14

    It's good that you want to tackle food waste but trying to change how an organisation works from the bottom up is quite tricky.

    Maybe you'll want to write a letter to your CEO explaining how food waste can impact their bottom line and how much money they can save per year (some creativity required), that should get them to respond quickly :)

    • +7

      Scenario A - upper management reduces/removes food service. Guess who is becoming super popular with other staff and caterers.

      Scenario B - upper management frowns upon wastage. Guess who is becoming super popular with staff.

      Scenario C - upper management throws it out and the inevitable rumours and assumptions ensues.

      People like to think that every individual has the capacity to make the biggest change. Whilst it may be true, that capacity involves rising through the ranks, not complaining up the ranks.

      Either way, going over your manager to essentially complain about your co-workers over food service that is graciously provided is a sure way to bomb a career.

      • burner email, put enough info so they can act without additional correspondence and dont single out any individual

    • explaining how food waste can impact their bottom line and how much money they can save per year

      This was the exact angle I was thinking, but then had the same thought as tshow:

      upper management reduces/removes food service

    • People smarter than op may have worked out that the benefits of providing free food to their employees is more beneficial to the company’s productivity than the petty cost of the uneaten food.

  • +5

    This is a silly pole


    • +2

      That's what she said.

    • -1

      Maybe the wasted food was sauerkraut.

    • Racist

  • +1

    This is a silly pole


    You can bring it up, it's all in how you approach it. Voice your concerns without it sounding negative.

    I used to work for a shipping company and thanks to the MUA all staff on ships got a choice of 2 set meals at every meal (eg a option for a chicken dish and separate option for a beef dish). Rather than deciding what you want before a meal, the chef would cook 2 lots of everything and you decide when you get there. Essentially a full meal per person per meal thrown out.

    • +1

      I think they mean its more like an icy pole rather than a survey poll

  • +3

    As above contact HR or senior management about your concerns rather than the individuals.

  • +6

    I support the unpopular policy of charging people for wasted food at paid buffets, but that is not possible at work functions or work paid lunches.

    There's not much you can do, I also feel bad when I see a lot of wasted food at buffets and food courts.

    I was raised to eat everything on my plate and at buffet's I would only get what I knew I would eat.

    I don't understand why people think it is OK to throw away good food, even though they have 'paid' for it .

    • +4

      I don't understand why people think it is OK to throw away good food, even though they have 'paid' for it .

      You've summed up the problem of an entitled society.

    • -4

      Honestly? Because no one else is going to eat it anyway. Would you eat food that's been on someone else's plate? It's more a practical issue than really an ethical one. People can be more aware and careful, but it's not as if people are going around deliberately buying then throwing away food.

      • +3

        No…I mean don't even take the food in the first place from the bain marie (in the context of a buffet).

        I often see people pile food high on the plate then leave it to go back for seconds.

        • +1

          I mean don't even take the food in the first place

          That sort of behaviour modification is akin to instructing the average person to, "not take that loan you can't pay back to begin with."

          Or "don't drive if you can't buy insurance".

          Like dog turd in the sun, that shit is hard.

          • @tshow: Yes it is too micro-managing people and people are likely to get upset if you tell them if they really need to go back for seconds if they still had half a plate of prawns they have not eaten.

            Ultimately down to the person's principles.

            I tend to behave myself at buffets because a lot of these places will give their leftovers to either the staff or to food rescue places who will come and collect the leftovers and give it to people who need the food.

            • +1

              @tsunamisurfer: I just skip buffets where possible (events are unfortunately out of my control).

              The notion of "all you can eat" conflicts with the effort to minimise wastage.

  • is this somewhere very near to circular quay, am i correct?

  • I don’t get it… where is the pole OP is making reference too?

    • +1

      Some of the staff that may have overfilled their plate could point you in the right direction.

      I believe you'd still have a hard time finding aforementioned pole as the sun is alleged to not shine there.

    • +2

      ..where is the pole..

      in the manager's office, of course! Dance for free food!

    • Szymon works in accounting.

  • NASA and The Pentagon are predicting the end of the human race within 50 to 200 years due to climate change.

    Spending your emotional energy on something that doesn't do anything is the height of irrationality but I expect to see more of this as the problem of the human race not existing gets closer. Yesterday someone was advocating that the tiny amount of plastic in cling film is a problem for example.

    • NASA and The Pentagon are predicting the end of the human race within 50 to 200 years due to climate change.

      Where did you get this NASA/Pentagon prediction?

    • +2

      "Food waste from paddock to plate
      An estimated 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia each year, according to the National Food Baseline report, which amounts to an average of nearly 300 kilograms per person."
      This is one of the biggest climate change contributors

      • -1

        This is one of the biggest climate change contributors

        Because they calculate the cost of energy required to move the food around. Energy that would have been expanded to move other things around even if food and related goods weren't part of the cargo.

        Also, "one of the biggest" is meaningless. It's akin to saying heaters are one of the biggest contributors of heating. Sure, maybe it may even be second but it is irrelevant to the heat produced by the Sun.

    • I'll be dead anyways by then so who cares.

  • +2

    Needs a passive/aggressive sign. Workplaces love those

  • +2

    Good on you for raising an issue many people sympathize with.

    The issue is the lack of incentive for people not to waste (as dumb as it sounds).

    Suggest to management to say give everyone a $1k food allowance each year (~$4 a day) or appropriate amount and charge them at cost for the meals.

    They might have to trial it to see how the savings in food compare to the additional cost of charging for the meals - e.g. hiring staff to facilitate checkout, unless they can automate the process.

    • It's a good idea but already they can only help themselves to 1 meal a day and they need to swipe to get into buffet. Once in though people just pile up with plates of food and a large percentage of people just throwing food away. Perhaps pre-served meals might help?

      • Having been behind the scenes at a soup kitchen the best way is to just make enough realistically for the number of people expected and people basically have to just eat what is left instead of making enough portions of each item for all that is just stupid unless you taking the leftover items to another event function.

        Yeah good wastage is so stupid but food packaging and our obsession with disposable everything is ridiculous like we could pretty much cut 90% of simple waste in an average office if we brought drinks from home or used reusable containers and stopped buying coffee with single use cups.

        As for tissues just bring a few hand towels and wash them at home with your normal laundry.

        The stuff I throw out at most work sites everyday are stuff like junk food chip bags, cans (from energy drinks to soft drinks), single use coffee related items (from paddle pop stick stirrers, sugar/coffee/hot chocolate sachets, multi wall ripple wrap cups, polystyrene travel lids), cigarettes and cigarette boxes, fast food packaging from subway to hot chips containers, plastic bottles (people have an obsession of using a new plastic bottle every day then just recycling it out.. like it is not hard to refill a bottle with water there is even chilled cold water on demand at all work sites in my experience), tissues (I really wish we had like a pseudo handkerchief culture where we use mini towels for everything from wiping your face with sweat to cleaning your face of coffee and food then just put the used hand towel in a plastic bag in your bag and mass wash it when you have enough for a full load simple but nooo we need to use as many facial tissues as possible and paper towels it is an unnecessary cost and expense to the environment and the company) and the occasional single use soup bowl and plastic takeaway container.

        I get that convenience is everything but man just a few small changes and the amount of stuff being thrown out and recycled becomes reduced immensely.

        Food for thought.

  • You probably need to control you emotions about stuff which has no impact on you.

  • MYOB.

  • +1

    Instead of "calling out" why not try encouraging your way instead? People are mush more likely to respond positively to a proposed solution than just being told they are wrong.

    Food for thought: What happens to all the prepared food that does not end up on a plate?

  • -1

    Stop being a moral busybody. Mind your own business and move on to more important things.

  • +3

    Suggest some signage: "Take all you want. Eat all you take".

    • +1

      Take what you need, eat all you must

      • +3

        Take with your greed. Eat till you bust.

  • I get the frustration, but unless you've got a large group of people who agree with you, and agree enough to want to do something, this isn't really a situation where you end up being the hero of the day. You either need to make peace with it, or if this kinda thing is indicative of how the rest of the company operates, you should find a new job.

  • There are a number of not-for-profit agencies, such as Food Ark, or other organisations that collect the "left overs" and distribute to the poor and needy.

    Think of how people will view you now as a caring thoughtful individual.

  • As I contract I have nothing to lose so I suggested full recycling system.

    Office Manager shot me down on the spot. So I went over her head to the High ranking manager… he said 'will consider it' … contract was up and I left.

    If as with everything he tells her to handle it, nothing will be done until she is ready to pitch it as her idea.

  • Perhaps if they started charging according to food weight then people would become much more conservative!

  • A place I used to work at the food would all get thrown away anyway because it couldn't be sold.

    • Coles, Woolworths OR ALDI?

      • It was a catering place. You can't really sell pies and cakes that have gone cold, they say it went to cattle feed.

        • Oh, I assumed it was Coles, Woolworths OR Aldi because of this report in Canada by CBC Marketplace about supermarkets throwing out perfectly good food.

        • If a friend came by around throwing time would it have been possible to sneak pick up the unsold food and not cause any problems.

          I ask this because I always wonder if I could befriend a few business owners or employees and get perfectly good food unsold and to be thrown of course for free.

          I know some bakeries for example donate their bread at the end of the day to some soup kitchen charities say the day before they do the soup kitchen and the charity arranges to pick up the donated food near closing time but have only personally witnessed this at one establishment.

          Wondering if it is more common than I think it is.

    • +1

      It’s sad when food gets thrown out but scarcity is the backbone of our economy. That’s why things get destroyed rather than sold ridiculously cheap or given away

  • Err, if its a free meal you don't need to feel bad about it going in the bin. Something tells me the company is not buying grass-fed meat or fresh veggies to serve up. Their meatballs are probably just horse ass mixed with sawdust. It's not a big loss.

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