Company - Virgin Trains

How was this solved?

Virgin Trains has progressively increased work being done to reduce waste. In its Environmental Plan for 2014-15 the Rail Sustainable Development Principles were used in conjunction with the Waste Hierarchy to engage staff to determine achievable projects and a target was set to reduce food waste by 20%.

'The leadership getting behind the commitments was key to our success" says Simarjeet Kaur, Head of Responsible Business, Virgin Trains. "It meant that core processes were brought into the spotlight to decide what we could do differently.'

Gradually Virgin Trains have delved deeper into the processes that are involved in their ‘chill chain’ to look at how much food is collected from the station chiller, onto the train, then the service trolley and to the customer. At each step of the process, choices are made which can reduce or increase waste and every team member now has the knowledge to think about that and take action.

Existing methods for monitoring food usage were reviewed and the team aimed to look from a different perspective. They calculated that success meant each Customer Service Assistant (CSAs) needed to save just two sandwiches from being transferred from the storage trolley to the service trolley per trip. An internal campaign on Yammer called #isaved2 quickly engaged everyone by making the challenge more personal and encouraging staff to share their successes.

The next step was making sure that all waste was sorted effectively so that it could be disposed of in the right way for recycling and general waste. By working with Alstom when the kitchens were being refurbished an additional bin was built in. CSAs were trained to use coloured bags according to what waste was in them and then the cleaning crews were trained to make sure they put the bags into the right bins once at stations and depots. The campaign, called ‘Let the right bin in’ was supported with posters to remind everyone which bag was which.

'This means that we are now doing all we can to separate our waste, between food, recycling and general waste” added Simarjeet, “the challenge is that we don’t have a food disposal option when we take the waste off the trains for final collection at Network Rail stations. As soon as those are provided the final link in the chain will be made and we are ready for that.'

What were the outcomes?

Food waste was reduced by 32% in recorded data, a saving of £300,000 (Financial year 2015/16).


Reducing our environmental impact, carbon smart

Asset / operations


Organisation type