Every person in the food service industry should strive to have a zero waste kitchen, but many don’t because it can take a lot of work and seems costly. Obviously having a zero waste kitchen will never be 100% perfect, but it’s important to get as close as you can. To achieve zero waste, you need to “prevent as much of an operation’s waste as possible and divert the rest to its highest and best use,” states Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Magazine in their webinar on zero waste kitchens.
Where to Start
The first part to create a zero waste kitchen is to understand your local landscape – outline what you are doing and why. Measure where your foodservice operation stands currently, set goals and communicate with everyone in your company. You’ll need to explain why you’re trying to create zero waste to your team to help them understand and get the job done along the way. When your team works hand in hand, it becomes easier to identify and eliminate waste blind spots.
How to Reduce Waste
FE&S’ webinar suggests that you make sure you have the necessary infrastructure, which is key. You also need someone to spearhead the cause and take leadership by starting with simple steps and building from there. Creating a zero waste kitchen is a shared responsibility so you need everyone to get involved.
Christy Cook, Senior Manager at Sustainability Field Support Sodexo, states “We have a big goal that 100% of our partnerships should have a waste reduction program in place by 2015. Creating a waste toolkit allows us to identify steps to implement that are unique to wherever site managers are located to reduce waste.” They also include practiced around source reduction, which is huge.
The Pittsburgh Pirates operate a zero waste kitchen – how do they do it? They start with a commitment from the top, such as reusable items for the employees (like drink cups), including a sorting center in the ballpark for composting and recycling, as well as using a trash compactor for recyclables. Sissy Burkhart, Cleaning Operations Manager for the Pirates, explains, “You really have to think outside the box sometimes and think how this can be recycled or reused. [For example] Sometimes employees will bring in used clothing to give to the less fortunate.”
Joe Carbonara, Editor in Chief of FE&S Magazine, described that the zero waste process “doesn’t start at the loading dock and end at the kitchen door.” Eliminating zero waste takes place in every facet of a foodservice operation.
It Takes a Team
The process to create a zero waste kitchen works best when it starts from the top down, starting with key leaders in management to help carry the message and its importance. Finding another leader to help you with your waste management efforts will only move the process along faster. Sissy detailed the three lessons she’s learned, “It’s all about the people, communication is key and beware of greenwashing. Make sure you’re not getting the fake [green] products. Many companies say [they’re] compostable, but really aren’t because there’s real plastic underneath so it can’t be composted and ends up in the landfill.”
“The ability to compost and recycle varies greatly by region so make sustainability a part of your operation’s core beliefs – once everyone sees the impact, the partnership becomes stronger and you can do more,” explains Christy on overcoming obstacles.
Tips, Tricks and More
The city of Irvine, California has some great tips for restaurants wanting to create a zero waste kitchen.
First, reduce your overall use by being creative with customers and employees. Offer customers a discount if they bring their own mugs, containers, or bags. For example:
- “Have employees use permanent-ware mugs or cups for their drinks instead of disposable ones
- Use health department-approved, refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual packets
- Buy regularly used items in bulk or in their concentrated form
- Ask your suppliers to take back shipping boxes for reuse or recycling and to keep you informed about new and existing products that are packaged in ways that can reduce waste.”
Second, the article states to recycle and buy recycled.
- “Set up a rendering service for your grease waste, fat or used cooking oil.
- Set up a recycling program at your restaurant by contacting your waste hauler or speaking with your property manager. Remember that recycling costs less than trash disposal.
- If you serve beverages in cans or bottles, place a recycling bin in the dining area for your customers’ empty beverage containers.
- Donate old uniforms to thrift shops.
The city of Irvine also suggests to get feedback from your employees on how to operate more efficiently to prevent waste and to keep customers informed about your new zero waste policy, “Place signs around the store letting customers know how they can help in your effort to go ‘Zero Waste’”. Another way to eliminate food waste is donating the leftovers to charity, which you can read more about in next week’s blog!
Ready to Start?
Here’s a list of resources that can help your foodservice establishment create a zero waste kitchen!