Food Waste

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 3 March 2016.

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Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

2. To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body how it disposes of food that is left over from events and functions. (S4O-05594)

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Our events and catering teams work closely with event organisers to provide guidance on food choices and, most important, the amount of food required. Any leftover food is put into food waste bins, collected by our waste disposal contractor and taken away for composting. Obviously, that helps to reduce the amount of waste that we send to incineration.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

According to Greener Scotland, every year 380,000 tonnes of food and drink is thrown away that did not have to be, costing the Scottish public more than £1 billion a year. The Parliament has the objective of being a zero-waste Parliament. Throwing out food does not seem to be in line with that ideal. Is it possible for the corporate body, in discussion with caterers and others, to consider, where possible, passing on leftover food from functions and events to the various food kitchens in Edinburgh that supply essential food to homeless individuals and others who demand to be fed?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Those discussions go on all the time. Because the Parliament takes very seriously its responsibilities to try to reduce all waste, including food waste, we have detailed discussions with those who organise events. Furthermore, we are looking at installing a food-waste monitoring tool, so that we can understand a bit better how and where food is wasted. In that way, we will be able to have better and more informed discussion and take appropriate measures.

There are issues around what, on the surface, seems the worthy way of doing things that the member suggests. We have to remember that when one is catering for events, the food is unpackaged, prepared and served and is not temperature controlled, so we must be careful that we do not allow it to become a risk and unfit for human consumption. Sometimes, it has to be classed as waste.

That said, discussions are always continuing about how best to manage these things, and I am absolutely sure that, with their good management of this institution, SPCB staff will carry on that discussion, along with the corporate body that is elected after the elections in May.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Many of us would like to increase the amount of food and drink for disposal. I refer in particular to the coffee in committee rooms. On behalf of my colleague on the Public Audit Committee and the Education and Culture Committee, Colin Beattie, and colleagues from all parties across the Parliament, I ask whether the corporate body will ensure that new and continuing MSPs get a decent cup of coffee in committee in session 5.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I guess that it is all a matter of taste. I quite like the coffee that we get in committees. In fact, I think that we are very lucky to get coffee in committees at all. These are hard times; we have austerity.

I have heard such comments over the past couple of years, and I know that Parliament staff have had coffee tastings for members for them to choose what they thought was the best coffee. I do not know what else we can do, to be perfectly honest. The fact that the coffee urns are often empty suggests that most people are quite happy with the coffee that is offered.

I am trying to think on my feet and come up with a solution. It is possible to get very good coffee bags, and we could probably supply some really hot water.

Photo of Mike MacKenzie Mike MacKenzie Scottish National Party

I share Mary Scanlon’s concerns about the coffee and I compliment her on her efforts to improve its quality.

I have observed something that might help the corporate body. On odd occasions, I have been in committees that have met very early in the day, and on those occasions the coffee seems to taste much better. I suggest that part of the problem, at least, might be that, at times, coffee is left standing in vacuum flasks for quite a long time, which impinges on the quality of its flavour. If the corporate body can direct its activities in such a way as to seek to improve the quality of the coffee, perhaps it could look at minimising the time that it is in the vacuum flasks for.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

It is me again. [Laughter.]

I am going to pass the buck: perhaps the next corporate body could look at the issue. However, I suggest that people get a bit more healthy and drink more water.

Photo of Dennis Robertson Dennis Robertson Scottish National Party

I am sure that Linda Fabiani is not expecting this question, either. On the same topic of food waste, I wonder whether the SPCB has considered—it probably has—what happens in the mornings when breakfast is over. What is left goes into waste immediately. Can we not consider putting the bacon, sausages et cetera into rolls—I love cold bacon rolls—and selling them on later?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Um—[Laughter.] I tell members what: there are folk in this establishment who are paid to look at such options. I am sure that they are listening avidly to this question time to see whether there is anything that they can do to improve the experience of MSPs, and that they will get back to Mr Robertson.