Charlotte Gowers

Charlotte Gowers

Coffee cup recycling hit the headlines recently when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste exposed that 399 out of 400 disposable cups go to landfill or incineration. But the same challenge is true for all used foodservice packaging, which is rarely recycled due to the combination of card, plastic and food contamination.

The University of Cambridge has found an innovative solution to recycle waste from its Catering Service’s 7 catering operations, busy with 6,500 sales transactions a day and 1,500 departmental events a year. Last November, its Catering Services switched to compostable takeaway packaging made by Vegware. All compostable takeaway cups, containers and cutlery are plastic-free, and go in the food waste bin. 1.5 tonnes of used compostable packaging goes to a local composting facility every month, is combined with food and garden waste and creates soil improver in a matter of weeks.

Unusually for a packaging firm, Vegware offers expert recycling support – winning the 2016 Queen’s Award for this zero waste approach. At the University of Cambridge, Vegware’s environmental team helped identify the right collector and processing facility for used compostable packaging and food waste, created bespoke bin signage, and ran Green Days to teach students to choose the correct bins.

This compostable packaging is made of renewable plant materials with a lower environmental impact. Vegware calculates that The University of Cambridge’s monthly usage saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon, and contains 710 kilos of recycled content. 


Case study film can be found here.

The University of Exeter has been bestowed with a celebrated national award to mark its commitment to sustainable dining for campus users in Exeter.

The University has been awarded a Two Star Food Made Good rating, granted by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), in recognition of its sustainable dining experience, from food sourcing through to the management of food waste.

The SRA commended the University for having all the ingredients in place to demonstrate an excellent level of sustainability, including quality sourced goods and excellent social and environmental credentials.

Julie Tong, Head of Catering and Foodservice, said: “We are committed to sourcing the best possible products and serving a range of healthy and nutritious meals to our students every single day.  We are proud to have received a two star rating and to have scored in the top 85% of SRA members in the South West.  We are reviewing where we can make further improvements to ensure our customers continue to receive the very best.”

Julie and her team were commended for the work they have done across all three pillars of the accreditation, sourcing, society and the environment.  In particular the University was applauded for offering a high proportion of vegetarian dishes, prioritising British produce, sourcing a range of Fairtrade products, monitoring waste and recycling, using solely environmentally friendly cleaning products and engaging with the community through donations to Exeter Food Bank each year.

The team at Exeter are aware of the importance of food for students, their wellbeing and the impact on their studies.  Work is ongoing to develop nutritional information on all menus so that customers can make an informed choice and the team are also working towards their food for the brain accreditation.

Chief Executive Andrew Stephen of the SRA, said: “With more than two million customers, and that’s just the students, UK universities have a giant slice of the UK eating out market. That brings enormous power, and with that comes a large degree of responsibility. The University of Exeter has demonstrated its commitment to serving up genuinely ‘good’ food, and its customers can turn their passion for good food into action and be reassured that they are making positive choices.”

The University of Exeter is one of more than 30 universities to have joined the SRA and become part of the Food Made Programme. Diners can choose from 6,000 such places to eat out in, across the UK, from Michelin starred – like the SRA President Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, or high street groups including Carluccio’s and Wahaca.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 08:30

Waste less at your university with Vegware

Over 50% of UK universities use Vegware’s eco packaging. With the support of Vegware, you can up your recycling rates, lower your carbon footprint and communicate your sustainability to students.

As one of the world’s leading universities, the University of Cambridge aims for excellence in everything it does. In November 2015, the University’s catering services switched to Vegware’s compostable foodservice packaging in order to go zero waste.

  • 7 catering services
  • 6,500 sales transactions a day
  • 1,500 departmental events a year

Compostable packaging: the key to zero waste in catering

Before changing to Vegware, the University of Cambridge experienced high levels of contamination in their recycling streams. Recycling conventional food packaging is challenging due to the mix of different materials and food. Most food packaging inevitably destined for landfill or incineration.

All of Vegware’s packaging is made from plants, not plastic, and designed to be recycled with food waste. This eliminates the issues typical of conventional packaging recycling – all the packaging goes into the food waste bin, and there’s no need to separate, sort or clean.

Vegware’s environmental team helped the University of Cambridge identify the right collector and processing facility for their used compostable packaging and food waste. The University staff had demanded food waste collections for years, but it hadn’t proved viable due to the relatively low volumes produced. Introducing Vegware raised the volumes of compostable waste and allowed collections to begin at a number of sites.


Communication is the key to ensuring an organisation as big as the University of Cambridge goes zero waste. Vegware ran a number of Green Day communication events, engaging staff and students with posters and a ‘waste sorting challenge’. We also created bespoke bin signage to show exactly what goes in each bin – ensuring low levels of contamination at the composting facility.

Engagement was then rolled out more widely by the University’s Environment and Energy Section, who ran a ‘spotlight on waste’ month, visiting a number of departments to talk about the issue of waste and about the new Vegware initiative. Vegware and related waste issues were also featured in monthly newsletters and in communications with the Environment and energy coordinators network.


The University of Cambridge is the first in the UK to implement this zero waste approach to foodservice. The Vegware scheme has provided a platform to promote the University’s sustainability aspirations. The University has found it’s the perfect conversation starter to engage staff on environmental sustainability and to act as a talking point around the issue of waste and recycling. The work has also received recognition by being shortlisted for a 2016 Green Gown Award.

Vegware are continuing their work with the University’s Environment and Energy Section to ensure the scheme continues to be a success. Happily, other departments and colleges within the university are following suit!

Vegware Co2 Eco Audits

By switching to Vegware’s compostable packaging, every month the University Catering service:

  • Saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon
  • Saves 710 kilos of virgin materials
  • Composts 1.5 tonnes of used packaging

“The University Catering Service’s commitment to sustainability contributes to enhancing the staff and student experience, and Vegware is a key part of this. The consideration of greater sustainability throughout the food chain

inside the University helps encourage positive lifestyle changes outside of it for both students and staff.”

- University Catering Manager

Love Food Hate Waste have come up with a lot of useful information for students. Feel free to share the below, it might even be useful to you if your younglings have just left for university.

Shared Fridges

When you move into a new kitchen, check that the fridge temperature is below 5 degrees. This can extend the life of many foods such as chicken, fish and salad by an extra three days. Raw food needs to be stored in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf to prevent contamination. In fact, most food will stay fresher for longer if it is kept in its original packaging or in a loosely tied bag. Leftovers need to be covered and then eaten within two days – cling film or reusing takeaway containers with their close fitting lids are perfect for this. The exception is cooked rice which should be eaten within 24 hours. Fridge food that is coming up to its use by date needs to be eaten or frozen. If you find food date labels confusing, why not print off the LFHW date label infographic and stick it on the fridge?

Old Mother Hubbard

Just imagine you have moved from a home that has a good stock of all sorts of food in the cupboard, including those spices, sauces and condiments that you don’t use often. If find yourself in a new place where the cupboard is bare, where to you start? Love Food Hate Waste has compiled suggested storecupboard essentials on the LFHW website. These are really useful items to have in stock as they can be used to create a meal, a snack or be combined with leftovers – especially if the shops are shut, or when the budget is tight. These items are likely to have a ‘best before date’ on them which means that they should be safe to eat after that date, they just might not be at their best. This means that many can be safely left in the cupboard or taken home with you at the end of term, they don’t need to be binned automatically. Keep them well sealed, cool and away from direct sunlight.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016 08:30

Love Food, Hate Waste - Timetable Alterations

Whether you are on an academic timetable, or are adjusting to a new work routine, one of the key ways to help you save money is to plan meals and menus.

It’s not as onerous as its sounds, there is even an online ready madetwo-week meal plannerfor both meat eaters and veggies to help get you started. You might like to cook together with new housemates as buying food for four can not only be cheaper, but it can be fun, build friendships and also introduce you to a new recipe repertoire. Getting together to discuss a meal plan for a week will help work out who is cooking, what they will cook but will also work out when meals will not be needed. For example will Friday night have a late night takeaway tradition, or will housemates be missing at the weekends? Use the plan to make ashopping listbut always check the fridge and cupboard before shopping – as you might already have the ingredients in stock.

Monday, 21 November 2016 08:30

Food Matters Live

Special events present visitors and exhibitors with unique networking and business opportunities. They include opportunities to arrange one-to-one meetings with innovation teams and buyers from retailers, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers plus industry awards and educational workshops.

  • Bord Bia
  • Food and Drink Federation
  • N8 AgriFood Roundtable
  • Sustainable Restaurant Association
  • Brand Chemistry 'speed dating'
  • Enterprise Europe: matchmaking meetings
  • IfM: Open Innovation Forum
  • FreeFrom Eating Out Awards presentation
  • Grub Club Cambridge Social Networking Event
  • IfM: Sustainable Food Business Hackathon
  • Meet the innovation teams

Impact data from the first 1000 suppliers using the new NetPositive Supplier Development online tool

Data is emerging from the sector-leading Supplier Engagement Tool, which is being spearheaded TUCO and three other national purchasing consortia for Higher Education (North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium, North Western Universities Purchasing Consortium and Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium) and utilised by 27 UK universities.

TUCO along with these organisations have been providing suppliers with access to a free, online tool that helps them create a Sustainability Action Plan for their business. The tool is designed to support and develop the supply chain as part of an ongoing commitment to embedding sustainability in procurement process.


6 months since the launch the first data from the tool is starting to emerge and demonstrates the positive impact suppliers to the HE sector are making in relation to sustainability – and where there is work still to be done!


Thursday, 17 November 2016 08:30

Food Matters Live

Food Matters Live 2016 will play host to six themed visitor attractions, bringing to life the learning from the conference and seminars through a series of thought provoking installations and live interactive demonstrations, tastings and talks located within the exhibition floor. 

  • The Evidence Base
  • FEED Sensorium
  • Catering for Health
  • Growth Lab
  • Experimental Café
  • Sustainable Food Futures

Food Matters Live is free to attend and welcomes all relevant industry professionals. Register here now.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016 08:30

Procure Wizard Update

In July we mentioned our upcoming partnership with Procure Wizard, an online purchase to pay system. This will give TUCO members free of charge use of a digital purchase to pay system as well as access to ‘live pricing’, taking significant costs out of the supply chain.

When Procure Wizard launched in 2011, its goal was to revolutionise the hospitality sector by providing a dynamic online purchasing portal to help modernise the procurement cycle, delivering improved efficiency and reduced costs.

Boasting a high profile client list (including the Gleneagles Hotel, Patisserie Valerie and Liverpool FC) and 10,000 active users, the portal has also recently won a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. TUCO members will be in very good company!

So what does it do? I think we’re all very aware at just how prevalent traditional telephone ordering and paper invoicing is in university catering, making the control of live costs both challenging and time-consuming. Well, Procure Wizard changes all that.

As a result of the new partnership members will enjoy a raft of world-class services including online ordering, recipe/allergen/ingredient analysis and stock management. Users will also be able to integrate the system into their current sales and accounts software.

The beauty of Procure Wizard is that it centralises your procurement function, giving you total control and cuts out human error. The key benefits are total visibility, it gives you a dynamic dashboard of exactly where your business is on any given day, at any specific time, as well as eliminating the risk of human error as once data is keyed, it doesn’t need to be re-entered or repeated. It also gives you access to live delivery data. It’s extremely user-friendly and can help you track your budget expenditure.

Transferring over to the system is a two-stage process. You can log on and order from day one (so getting purchase to pay up and running is quick and simple). Stage two takes more time as it involves the integration of systems and members will need to prioritise the other modules for integration.  However Procure Wizard is happy to do this at the pace you dictate. The company is also happy to run members through what is required and to give onsite demonstrations.

I have no doubt that TUCO members who embrace this online option will transform their relationship with suppliers. These are exciting times!    



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