Small Steps, Big Impact

by Katie Lee

— By Erich Lawson —

6 simple ways to reduce food waste in restaurants.


Every year a lot of food is wasted, of which restaurants are major contributors. Recyclable items like cardboard and paper waste find their way to landfills instead of being recycled. As a restaurateur, you can do your bit for the planet by reducing this waste. You can even install self-contained trash compactors to handle waste efficiently.

  1. Audit the Waste

If you cannot measure how much you are wasting, there is no way you can minimize it. Before you implement any changes, you need to know what exactly you are wasting on an average day.

Erich Lawson, Compactor Management Company

Sort a day’s worth of waste into different categories like metal, recyclables, non-recyclables, compostable and non-compostable materials. Get an idea of the weight of the waste as this will allow you to measure the impact of waste management.

A waste audit will also help you identify different opportunities for improvement and efficiencies. If you identify which items are making it to the dumpster, you can come up with techniques to prevent that.

Establish a benchmark and track your efforts against it. Having a clearly defined benchmark will make sure you meet your waste management goals.

  1. Avoid Over-Purchasing, Especially of Perishable Products

Keep track of your inventory. There are many ways to reduce food waste and one way is by knowing exactly what you have in your inventory and how much you have. This will help you prevent over-purchasing.

You must understand your restaurant sales trends around certain items of the year, especially the times you get fewer customers. With this knowledge, you can prevent over-purchasing. It won’t just reduce the total amount of waste, but also help in cost savings.

Ensure all the perishable products are used on time before they go bad. Avoid purchasing such products in bulk; buy exactly the amount that you would need. Once perishable products go bad, there won’t be any other option but to throw it away

  1. Use Reusable Items

Use items that you can sanitize and reuse. Small changes go a long way and will have a greater impact. For instance, switching to cloth napkins instead of paper napkins will reduce the paper waste generated by the restaurant.

Use steel straws instead of plastic straws or eliminate the use of straws completely. Laminate the menus or put them in a casing so that they can be reused again. Paper menus can get stained or torn easily — and then they have to be thrown away constantly.

  1. Donate Uneaten Food

There are numerous ways to reduce and recycle food waste. But if there any uneaten leftovers, do not throw it away. Donate the food to shelters or people in need.

If you are unable to donate it, explore other options. This may include feeding animals, composting prior to sending it to a landfill or anaerobic digestion. You can even give uneaten leftovers to your employees for free.

  1. Encourage Your Customers to be a Part of Your Program

Diners these days are quite environmentally conscious and would be happy to be a part of your food waste recycling program. Encourage your customers to pack their leftover food. Use eco-friendly food packaging and inform the diners that the packaging can be recycled or is compostable.

You can offer some discount if the diners bring their own containers to take home their leftovers. Consider selling recyclable or reusable containers. If you convey to your customers that you are doing your bit to minimize food waste, they will support you in the cause.

  1. Compost Food Scraps and Organic Waste

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost 60% to 80% of the garbage produced by hotels and restaurants is food waste. If you produce any organic waste, compost it to produce soil fertilizers to enhance the soil quality. When you separate the organic waste for composting, you help in diverting waste from landfills and lower waste collection and hauling fees.

Organic waste includes:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Food scraps
  • Paper towels
  • Coffee grinds and filters
  • Compostable plates and cutlery
  • Tea bags

Recycling and reducing food waste are easier than you think. Waste recycling won’t just help the environment but also benefit your restaurant monetarily. Start with small steps and you will see the impact of effective waste management sooner than you think.



— Erich Lawson, online marketing manager of Pleasanton, California-based Compactor Management Company, is passionate about the environment and is an advocate of effective recycling. For more information, visit his blog on Compactor Management Company’s website:



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