Petersham Nurseries Richmond Step Up The War On Waste

The annual environmental cost of food waste in the UK is 20m tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of all 3.5m cars across the East of England.

This summer at Petersham Nurseries Richmond, we have stepped up our war on waste with a number of initiatives designed to reduce our impact on the environment. Facing the news that every year in the UK alone, more than 10 million tonnes of food is wasted throughout the supply chain, we have taken a number of steps to reduce our food waste and ensure that over 95% is recycled or disposed of by sustainable means. From innovations in composting to recycled beeswax from our onsite hives and the introduction of an anaerobic food waste digestive system, we are always looking for ways to reduce our impact and build a more sustainable future.

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef



An anaerobic food waste digestive system was installed in July 2019, primarily for the disposal of uncompostable prep and restaurant plate waste. Using the same principles as the human body, the machine creates the perfect thermophilic biological environment for microorganisms to digest food waste, turning them it into a liquid which is safe to put down the drain. This process significantly reduces the number of vehicles that collect rubbish from site and thus reducing harmful emissions.


All compostable prep waste is now taken routinely into the Petersham House garden where it is composted by the head gardener. This wonderful compost is now being used on site in the plant nursery and owners’ garden, surplus bags are also being offered free of charge to the local community. We are currently planning a new additional compost especially for typically difficult to compost ingredients such as eggshells and citrus skins which will create an ericaceous compost, suitable for plants such as Rhododendron, Camellia, and Azalea.

The Teahouse have been experimenting with various cakes, that creatively make use of items that would ordinarily be thrown away or that can be used twice instead of once. Making a delicious treat using spent coffee grinds, chocolate brownies will be available for a limited time in support of Zero Waste Week.

Repurposing Olive Oil

The team have created a homemade furniture polish using unfilterable beeswax from our onsite hives, citrus skins and wasted olive oil from diners’ tables. Petersham’s Resident beekeeper, Linda together with senior sous chef George has also developed a beeswax film that can be used in the kitchen instead of clingfilm.  Next year we plan to run workshops where participants learn how to make their own.


When possible, surplus food is also taken to The Vineyard Community Centre, a Richmond based community centre that helps vulnerable individuals overcome crisis and reconnect with society.

Sharing Knowledge

This summer, we have also taken part in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s ‘Food Waste: Bad Taste’ initiative, working with the association to shine a light on unnoticed wastefulness. By diligently separating, weighing and recording our food waste over a four week period, dividing it into categories of prep, spoiled and plate waste we have been able to identify problem areas and work on ways to either cut down or iradicate the need for something to end up in the bin. This has enabled us to pinpoint problem areas and set ambitious targets to further reduce waste and carbon footprint. The SRA cleverly grouped participating restuarants toether into consortiums, recognising the need to share findings, and knowledge. It is only be talking about our challenges and by sharing solutions that we can make improvements to operate more sustainably.


In addition to food waste, the reduction of material waste remains a focus. 80% of waste at Petersham Nurseries is separated and recycled, with the aim of taking this to at least 95%. It has been a partner of SRA approved Quantum Waste for over 10 years, a waste removal company that uses lighter vehicles and collect in a local radius to use less fuel and lower carbon emissions. Further recycling initiatives for 2019 include:

Wine Corks

At the start of the 2019 Petersham Nurseries enrolled with Recorked, the UK’s leading natural wine cork recycling program. All corks are donated to Recorked who then resell or supply free corks to charities and schools for use in craft projects. For every cork collected, a % of their profit is donated to nominated charities.

Uniforms by EkoChef

Ambra and her team of chefs all wear jackets made from recycled bottles and waste polyester fibre