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Full Circle Sustainability: Reducing Waste in Restaurants

Apr 10, 2014 4:35:00 PM

The goal of reducing waste across many sectors of the food-service industry is following a paradigm shift. Discarded waste that fills non-degradable bags and populates landfills is not only aesthetically undesirable, but it's also environmentally irresponsible. "Going green" and "reducing our carbon footprint" are not just buzzwords; they are responsible steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Full-circle sustainability offers a three-faceted benefits package to the restaurant industry:

  1. Environment.

    Reducing landfill loads also reduces the production of methane gas, which is a primary contributor to the greenhouse gases that pollute the atmosphere.

  2. Economics.

    Food waste chips away at profit margins and increases waste-disposal costs. These costs can plummet by using alternative strategies designed to recycle and repurpose restaurant waste.

  3. Philanthropy.

     Sales profits are enhanced by people profits. Although restaurants can reduce waste by donating leftover food, feeding those in need is the higher benefit.

Restaurant owners following the curve toward sustainability are led by three different influences:

  1. Conscience.

    An internal compass that instinctively points toward responsibility and accountability is a strong motivator to "do the right thing." 

  2. Customers.

    The developing consumer-driven shift toward sustainable restaurant practices is picking up momentum. Restaurants are experiencing an increased need to maintain transparency and accountability to their customers with their sustainable choices.

  3. Compliance.

    Legislation continues to increase in many cities now requiring the food service industry to decrease waste and phase out plastics like Styrofoam™ in favor of more sustainable packaging material.   

Regardless of which influences drive restaurants toward the goal of sustainability, these green technologies and practices can help accomplish the goals:

  • LeanPath. This automated system was a front-runner in the sustainable restaurant movement. The system tracks amounts, food types, locations and reasons for waste losses through data input on touch screens. After analyzing the data, the system suggests steps toward reducing restaurant waste.
  • Wise Up On Waste. This free app allows tracking and measuring restaurant food waste that results from preparation, spoilage or leftovers. The input data is compiled into a per-diem analysis with comparisons across the industry to suggest more cost-effective alternatives.
  • Bamboo serviceware. An alternative to the traditional polystyrene dinnerware, bamboo overcomes the concerns of durability and aesthetics. Products are reusable, compostable and attractive.
  • Compostable to-go containers. With a similar look but different composition than conventional foam packaging, these containers are made from plants.
  • Recycled paper take-out bags. Made with a minimum of 40 percent post consumer recycled paper, from no old-growth forests and compliant with plastic bag ban legislation.
  • Composting. Recycling approved food scraps and restaurant waste paper products can be outsourced or done on-site.   If your city doesn’t offer compost service yet, you can find private sources via findacomposter.com.   As the ultimate full-circle sustainable practice, composting reduces waste to a usable soil amendment for food plots.
  • Biofuel technology. Restaurants can be a vital part of the biofuel industry to help reduce dependency on conventional fuel sources. This cutting-edge technology converts recycled restaurant cooking oil and grease to biofuel.  There are now many services in cities that pick up used cooking oil for free for this purpose.

Eco-friendly practices and packaging sources are increasing exponentially as a result of customer preferences, ongoing sustainable legislation and conscientious restaurant owners. Implementing one practice at a time benefits all of us toward the goals of awareness and responsible conservation.

6 ways to reduce waste at your restaurant

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