Article contributed by The Green Restaurant Association
The average restaurant produces about 100,000 pounds of trash a year. There are over 1 million restaurant locations in the United States. That is over 100 billion pounds of trash being created by U.S. restaurants alone. As we face environmental problems such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and overflowing landfills, more and more foodservice businesses should be looking for ways to reduce their waste.
By recycling, one restaurant can reduce their waste by about 50%. But 50,000 pounds of trash a year is still a lot of garbage. Luckily, there’s a way for restaurants to become near zero waste. By recycling and composting pre and post-consumer waste, many of our Certified Green Restaurants® have reduced their trash production by almost 90%.
To reduce your waste most effectively, restaurants should be commercially composting both pre and post-consumer waste. This means both the scraps from cooking, and the waste from customer’s meals.
The best things to commercially compost include fruit and vegetable scraps, meat, dairy, coffee grounds, tea bags, paper towels, and much more. If you use disposable cutlery and cups, make sure these are compostable as well. All plastics, metals, and glass should be recycled. Creating signage on your bins for customers can ensure that your recycling and composting programs are effective.
Composting is good for the environment for a variety of reasons. When organic waste is deposited into a landfill, it releases methane when it decomposes. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas; in a five-year period, it produces about 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. By composting, organic waste is being diverted from the landfill and less harmful methane is being produced. Compost is also incredibly nutrient rich, which means there’s less need for chemical fertilizers during crop production.
Composting isn’t just good for the environment either; it can be good for business as well. Many cities are implementing mandatory composting legislation, and implementing a composting program now can put your restaurant ahead of the game. Additionally, more people are becoming sustainability minded, and being eco-friendly can attract new employees and new customers.
The Green Restaurant Association is a national non-profit organization that has pioneered the Green Restaurant movement and has been the leading voice within the industry encouraging to green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards. If your restaurant or food service operation is interested in learning more about getting certified, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.