Michelle Green, Cork County Council; Katherine Fitzpatrick, Visit Cork Sustainability Lead; Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Frank O’Flynn; Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy; Lorraine Leahy, Cork City Council, at the new Fota Wildlife Park Education Centre. Photo: Joleen Cronin

Fota conference to reduce food waste

Over one quarter of the food produced worldwide is wasted. This is a significant contributor to climate change, with 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions emerging from food loss and waste.

Global issues often require local responses, and this is the thinking behind Waste Not, Want Not, a conference organised by Visit Cork in collaboration with Cork City Council and Cork County Council.

Taking place on Wednesday 31 January, the conference aims to address the alarming amount of food waste in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Stakeholders from the industry will be invited to the new state-of-the-art Education, Conservation and Research Centre in Fota Wildlife Park to share insights, expertise, and practical solutions for managing and reducing waste.

The half-day event, supported by funding from the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices’ Green Hubs Fund, will feature a comprehensive review of Visit Cork's plans and aspirations for the sector in 2024. Expert speakers will advise businesses on better practice and some of the available resources for managing waste.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy stated that the conference “sets the stage for future collaborations and endeavours that link to Cork’s goal to become net zero in its carbon emissions.

“A key part of that journey is the delivery of responsible waste management strategies across many elements of society including sustainable tourism practices.”

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Frank O’Flynn echoed the emphasis on sustainability: “This conference will not only focus on how to save money by reducing waste, but it will also be an opportunity for businesses in Cork’s vibrant tourism sector to speak to local support agencies and experts about their broader sustainability plans and ambitions.”

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that Ireland generated 753,000 tonnes of food waste in 2021, with restaurants and food services generating approximately a quarter of that total.

Head of Visit Cork, Seamus Heaney, said: “The Reducing Commercial Food Waste in Ireland report published in 2019, found that over 66% of food waste from the food services sector is avoidable. It found that hotels have the highest level of food waste and the annual cost of food waste to this sector is estimated to be in excess of €300 million.

“It is so important for the sector to realise that managing food waste is not only the right thing to do, but should also result in a cost saving. Our conference will help the tourism and hospitality industry to share ideas and learn from others who have successfully reduced their food waste,” he said.

The Waste Not, Want Not conference continues Visit Cork’s focus on sustainable practices, with the city ranking 26th out of 100 destinations that were benchmarked for their sustainability credentials through the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDSI) in 2023.

The conference is free to attend, but businesses must register in advance online due to limited spaces. There is an option to donate to Fota Wildlife Park conservation and education activities when booking.