Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants see food waste as being a low priority. You may be tantalized by the row of restaurants you see in upscale neighborhoods in New York or Los Angeles. However, if you walk around the alley at the back of this row, you might be in for a big shock. Expect to be greeted with dumpsters packed with trash that only get emptied twice a week, at most. That means a lot of food sitting there fills the area with a deep putrid stench. What’s worse, some of these dumpsters aren’t completely sealed and therefore grease and rancid juices are leaking everywhere which can result infestation putting the restaurant at risk of contravening a health code violation.
Owners are beginning to become aware of the problem of food waste in the restaurant industry. Apart from attracting pests, food waste also has environmental consequences. Food wastes are transported to landfills every day which has an effect on the climate. Methane generates from rotting food, a greenhouse gas that is deemed 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency has prioritized combating against climate change by reducing methane emissions from landfills.
Restaurant owners are gradually considering the fact that 10 percent of the food they purchase ends up in landfills. According to the National Restaurant Association, raising awareness of food waste presents a big challenge for many restaurants. While food scraps in the business are inevitable, a lot of waste is still edible. The most difficult part for many owners is alerting their employees on how much edible food they waste on a daily basis. Education and intense training is necessary for developing waste reduction ideas, when executed properly and followed through, can not only prevent environmental hazards but save costs as well.
The NRA along with the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers have assumed a leading role in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a cross-industry organization comprised of restaurateurs, hotel owners, supermarkets and grocery manufacturers to cultivate waste reduction ideas and set goals. As these industries trend towards a more substantial image, they are shifting from basic recycling and generic green messages to creating programs that deliver environmental and financials benefits to these businesses. Ideas for going green in the business are not limited to food. They extend to:
- Donating safe and nutritious food to charity organizations
- Recycling unavoidable food waste and even serving utensils
- Using commercial grade furniture
- Investing in energy efficient appliances
- Trimming down the menu
- Setting a budget
- Taking full advantage of social media marketing
Creating a successful recycling program come with rewards that outweigh the disadvantages. Obstacles to recycling and waste management can be easily overcome with awareness, sacrifices, education, and commitment as well as employing user-friendly systems such as the importance of using glassware instead of plastic plates, commercial grade chairs, booths, and/or tables instead of residential furniture as they are more resistant to the rigors in a busy dining establishment, online advertising instead of relying on yellow pages, installing low-flow faucets and toilets which conserve 20 to 40 percent of water, and soaking the dishes rather than running hot water to loosen the dried food caked into them.
Restaurants that utilize these programs and proactively search for solutions to set clear goals will make the most of the opportunities that they offer and reap the financial and environmental benefits for the participants. Even when recycling costs seem prohibitive, informing your patrons of your efforts in making your restaurant eco-friendly pays dividends in customer relations and loyalty, not to mention the newfound respect they will have for you. Composting can even expand your clientele base and bring in more guests. People increasingly prefer to dine at venues that take environmental–conscious initiatives in their products and services. Such services are in high demand and people will sooner take notice of businesses that go green than those who don’t.