Striving for Sustainability: 5 Tips for Waste Management

Running an environmentally-friendly restaurant isn’t just good for the planet – it’s good for your business, too. Here are five ways you can get your restaurant on the profitable path to waste management.

Conduct a waste audit.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So before you implement any changes at your restaurant, be sure you understand how much waste is being produced on average. To do this, you need to get your hands dirty (unless you wear gloves, which are recommended!). Or, you can often pay your waste disposal company for an audit. The goal is to sort a day’s worth of waste into categories, such as metal, recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic, glass, recyclable paper, non-recyclable paper, compostable organics, non-compostable organics and any other material relevant to your restaurant or local waste disposal programs. At the end of the day, you’ll have a snapshot of your restaurant’s daily waste by weight, and you will be able to measure the impact of your restaurant waste management efforts against this benchmark.

Consider the container.

Work with your suppliers to ensure that the containers they use to ship your products are reusable, or at least recyclable. They will often be happy to take the containers back and reuse them to minimize waste and trim expenses. Next, think about the containers your restaurant is using during operations. Instead of small disposable packets, use refillable condiment dispensers, and buy your stock in bulk if sales volume and storage space allows for it. Make sure containers are environmentally friendly or reusable, too. Plastic-lined cardboard, vacuum-sealed plastic and foil pouches are more eco-friendly than the hard plastic pails and buckets.

Optimize storage.

A poorly planned storage system can result in more waste and greater costs than making no changes at all. If your restaurant is transitioning to a bulk-and-storage strategy, you’ll first need to optimize your storage space and procedures while following health and safety guidelines. Ensure that your employees know who is in charge of which storage responsibilities. As a best practice, store products as soon as they are received at your restaurant. The more containers you use, the less space you have for product, so use the largest storage containers possible. Finally, create a shelf-life chart that all employees can reference to ensure food is fresh to use and is quickly disposed of when it’s not.

Invite your diners to be part of the solution.

Diners are more environmentally conscious today than they’ve ever been. Most of them would rather be a part of the solution than the problem. Shine a positive light on using less, and invite customers to join your restaurant in its eco-friendly mission. For example, New England-based chain Boloco uses eco-friendly food packaging and encourages diners to do their part with receptacles that have designated sections for compostable and recyclable items.

Maintain a thorough recycling program.

The first thing you can do to ensure your restaurant is doing all it can to run a sustainable business is to take a look at how many of the products you order are arriving in recyclable or reusable containers – and are also recyclable items themselves. Then, call up your waste management company for details on what they recycle and what they need you to do for efficient pickup. Many municipalities also support special business recycling programs for services such as electronics recycling.

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