The environmental costs of catering in a hospital. Calculation of external costs of a year of catering

What is the environmental impact of a year of catering in a hospital? That question is the focus of this study, which was conducted for the ‘Food in Healthcare’ buyer group of Circular Procurement Acceleration Network (Versnellingsnetwerk Circulair Inkopen, VCI) in collaboration with Hutten. We have expressed the environmental impact in euros: these are also called ‘external costs’. You can compare these costs to the procurement costs of hospital food supplies. The result? The environmental cost of catering in 2021 in a medium-sized hospital is about €130,000. This is 27% of the purchase amount for food. This percentage is slightly higher for food for patients (29%) and slightly lower for food in the restaurant (24%).

High environmental impact of meat, cheese and milk
The highest environmental costs for food for patients are for the ‘Meat & Fish’ product group.
In the restaurant, most external costs are caused by ‘Soup & Soup Enrichers’, with soup meat having the most impact. Also notable were the high external costs due to cheese and milk, both bovine products.

Fourteen different environmental impacts were included in the calculation of external costs, including particulates, acidification and climate impact (CO2). Our calculations were made using the Dutch environmental prices from CE Delft’s Environmental Prices Handbook 2017, price level 2015.

Much to be gained from protein transition
To evolve towards ‘circular catering’, caterers often focus on protein transition and reducing waste. We studied the effect of these two measures. We found that:

  • protein transition from ‘40% vegetable and 60% animal’ to ‘60% vegetable and 40% animal’, provides savings of about a quarter of the external costs;
  • reducing food waste from 4.5% to 3%, provides limited savings of 1% to 2% in external costs.

Buyer group ‘Nutrition in healthcare’
The buyer group consists of healthcare facilities and hospitals purchasing food, and suppliers providing food to healthcare. Together, they are working to accelerate the protein transition in healthcare. This study provides input for the market vision being prepared by the buyer group.

This buyer group is part of the Circular Procurement Acceleration Network (Versnellingsnetwerk Circulair Inkopen, VCI), a collaboration between MVO Nederland, PIANOo, Nevi and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) and is made possible by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat).