Tackling food waste in the TV and Film industry with World Productions

4th December 2023 

In the fast-paced world of film and television, food waste isn’t always the first thing on a production team’s mind when planning a project.

But there’s currently a high-end TV production team in Northern Ireland running a food waste free shoot – with the help of Olio. 

Claire McKinley is the Production Manager for World Productions’ Showtrial Season 2 (the company behind Vigil & Line of Duty). In this blog Claire takes us through her experiences of waste within the industry, and the collective steps being taken towards sustainability. 

She also shares why she felt she couldn’t continue to let good food end up in the bin, and why she wanted to give back to the local communities where the filming takes place. 

Why did you first want to start working with Olio? 

“I’ve been working in TV & Film for 15+ years and the biggest collective complaint within the industry is food waste. Personally, I hate to think how much food has been wasted over the years! We can cater to between 50-200+ cast and crew on a daily basis. For example, if 2 portions of food per day over a 6 month period is wasted, it all adds up.

It’s not for lack of wanting to donate to the likes of homeless shelters, half-way homes, emergency or temporary housing and accommodation. Our hands are generally tied because of our insurance policies, which don’t cover handling of food once cooked, as well as health and safety requirements.

As soon as I heard about Olio, I just thought – why have we not done this before? And why has it taken so long for me to find out about this organisation?!

Lily, from Olio, approached me on Linkedin and we started emailing in the early stages of prep for this production, so the timing couldn’t have been better. The more we spoke, the more I felt this was too good an opportunity to turn down. I pitched Olio to our execs at World Productions, who thankfully were happy to support the scheme by covering Olio’s fee.

We were confident that by sharing our spare food through Olio, it would go to a good home. Plus, both the World Productions team and the Sustainability team at the BBC could see that as well as reducing waste and supporting local people, this would be a step in the right direction for lowering our carbon footprint too.” 

How easy was it to get everything set up ahead of your production?

“Everything was pretty quick and seamless after all parties involved agreed to working with Olio. We only had 4 weeks to get everything set up (which was a bit of a rush!), but we managed it.

Once we’d got all the paperwork signed off, we needed to get the ball rolling with our catering company, Big Occasions. Our Catering Manager, Chad Falls, was 100% behind me when I approached him about the scheme. Out of everyone, he seemed to be the happiest to learn that we potentially had a way to stop food from going to waste. To hit the ground running on our first day of shooting, we had to bulk buy the correct containers (all compostable), to start packing up food at the end of each lunch break. 

Lily asked all the right questions in order to get the food collected in a timely manner – from pick up location to time and point of contact on arrival, so we could share all the right information with volunteers in  advance. Since day one, it’s felt like a collective effort between production, catering  and the Olio volunteers, to ensure nothing goes amiss. The communication and rhythm  has been spot on – it’s felt incredibly smooth-sailing!” 

What have you noticed has worked particularly well for you on this production with Olio?

“It’s definitely had an impact on team morale – everyone’s interested and invested in where the food is ending up. It’s helped that we’ve had some lovely notes from volunteers, as well as some heartbreaking testimonials. 

Early on, one of the Olio volunteers passed on a note to let us know that our spare food had fed 3 families one evening, and it was food that some kids hadn’t tasted before. It was all eaten! Every time we get these sort of testimonials, we relay it to our crew, who in turn relay it to their friends and family. All in all, it gets the message out there that through our work with Olio we’re doing something really worthwhile, and I’m glad we’re able to be a part of it.

Volunteers regularly share messages of thanks from local people who’ve collected food left from Showtrial shoots

Another thing that’s been really amazing has been the flexibility of Olio’s volunteers. Recently, one of our filming locations was in the middle of a privately owned forest covering hundreds of acres. The only thing giving directions on the ground was a bunch of paper arrows. You might think this would’ve put some people off, but it wasn’t an issue in the slightest for the Olio volunteer, who turned up in their car with a big smile! 

The fact that your volunteers are so dedicated to rescuing good food, even in daunting locations, is fantastic. When you think that they’re doing this in their own time as well it makes it even more amazing.”

More grateful messages that Claire and the team have recieved from volunteers and local people

What advice would you give to other production companies looking to operate more sustainably and reduce food waste? 

“I feel so strongly that other production teams need to get on board with this!

Currently with the cost of living crisis, as well as environmental issues with intensive farming and climate change affecting the cost of food, every single one of us needs to be doing our bit in some shape or form.

So many of us are so lucky in that we can go home, cook food or order a takeaway, but others can’t – they rely on food banks and donations. And those people could be our friends or family who are too ashamed to ask for help.

Knowing that we are able to facilitate free meals, for me, is a worthy investment for any business, especially TV & Film production companies – it allows us to be more conscious of our impact with the surrounding environment and local communities.

I really take my hat off to the team at Olio for what you’re doing.” 

Aside from Olio, what other sustainability initiatives are you running across this season of Showtrial? 

“Like most productions we’re a part of BAFTAs Albert scheme to reduce waste and our carbon footprint. Part of this is issuing a “Green Memo” to cast and crew. This essentially highlights our goals as well as our projected offset cost for our carbon output. For example, sourcing sustainable or recycled paper for the office, or encouraging people to use reusable cups rather than disposable cups – it makes life easier for everyone! 

For this shoot most of our filming will be within Belfast City Centre. We try, wherever possible, to get crew from A to B in minibuses and opt for hybrid cars if that’s not possible. We strongly encourage crew to use phones & iPads over paper.

As we are reducing our food waste disposal with Olio, we provide fully compostable cutlery and packaging for cast & crew. We’re trying to do more fish, veggie and pasta-based meals. We’re also working with our facilities company to power generators, trucks and cars with recycled vegetable oil rather than diesel.

It’s worth noting that these options – although they sound really great – can be more expensive than what’s been budgeted for the production. Sometimes we have to work a bit of magic to implement them, but the long-term benefits will always outweigh the short-term barriers. Once we figure out how we can make something work, I find it hard to not justify continuing these practices going forward on other shoots. It creates good habits going forward!”

With thanks to Claire McKinley at World Productions.

Written by Cozzi Baring, Senior Marketing Manager, Olio

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