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Study: How Restaurants Can Help Reduce Food Waste

Restaurants can help reduce food waste in landfills by offering compostable plates, cups and utensils, according to a new study by Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit zero-waste organization.

“Restaurants play a critical role in reducing and recovering food scraps, and composting is one of the fastest, most cost-effective solutions for reducing carbon pollution and reducing waste,” said Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle’s policy and research director and one of the study’s authors along with Dale Ekart.

Offering compostable serviceware would make it easier for restaurant customers to help reduce food waste by composting their scraps and sorting it into the right bins, the study found. It noted that restaurants are recovering some food waste, but far too much still gets thrown out.

Related: This social enterprise makes it easier for restaurants to reduce plastic waste and Styrofoam

“Less than 15% of restaurant food waste is collected for composting, and these efforts have primarily focused on collecting food scraps from the kitchen,” the study said. “However, on average, diners leave 17% of their meal uneaten, and more than half of these potential leftovers are not taken home. This means there is a large, untapped potential to recover food waste generated by diners through front-of-house composting programs that collect food scraps from customers.”

One of the keys to composting success, the study found, is for restaurants to simplify their serviceware by using durable plates, glasses and utensils or using all compostable serviceware. Nationwide, 85% of customers say they are willing to sort their waste after eating out if bins are provided.

However, for recycling and composting to succeed, the sorting has to be done properly. The study found that consumers struggled with how to sort materials when there were several different types of food serviceware. By contrast, those restaurants that used one primary type of serviceware — either durable, reusable plates and utensils or a fully compostable system — had higher rates of success. The result: more of what composters love (food scraps) and less of what composters hate (materials like non-compostable plastic that contaminates the compost).

Related: This bioplastics entrepreneur is helping save the world from plastic waste.

The quick-service restaurant with all compostable food serviceware performed well — meaning they captured most of their food scraps with very little contamination — as did the quick-service restaurant using all durable food serviceware, suggesting both of these approaches can be used successfully to capture food scraps for composting, the study found.

“This report is the first of its kind to demonstrate this can be done well and is worth doing,” Bailey said. “Food establishments are capable of very high diversion rates, making them a key partner in moving toward Zero Waste, reducing our carbon emissions and building healthy soils through composting.”

Sullivan Field Trip Offers Whirlwind Trip to At Least Seven Social Enterprises

Seven social-enterprise businesses have already been lined up for the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, and more are in the works, according to organizer Harrison Wood.

The field trip takes place Sept. 13-15, 2019. For a rate of $119 per room, partner schools can use this link to book rooms for their attending students at the Holiday Inn Raleigh Downtown, located at 320 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. To book by phone, they can call 855-914-1878 and reference Block ID “SUL.” Schools must book the group-block rooms by August 27.

Click here now to sign up for the field trip. The deadline to register is Sept. 2.

Students with an interest in social entrepreneurship will meet and learn from owners of a wide variety of businesses with a focus on social impact. Many of them are triple-bottom-line businesses – they generate a profit while also addressing a social need and benefiting the environment. These social enterprises include:

HQ Raleigh—Launched in 2012, this co-working community fosters entrepreneurship and collaboration. It has helped launch 500 start-ups in Raleigh, according to the company website. At its Warehouse District Location, HQ Raleigh creates a “collaborative environment that empowers high-impact, high-growth entrepreneurs to create purpose-driven businesses that leave the world better than they found it.”

Picture shows a selection of Reborn Clothing items for sale

Reborn Clothing creates an upcycling option for old clothes in your closet.

Reborn Clothing Co.—Emily Neville started Reborn Clothing as a sophomore at North Carolina State University to give consumers an upcycling option for their clothes and to reduce textile waste. The company takes used garments and repurposes them into new, useful items, including baby blankets, throw pillows, dog bandanas and more. Visitors to Reborn’s website can also purchase upcycled items made from scraps from the manufacturing process. These range from duffel bags and makeup cases to keychains, earrings and scrunchies.

CompostNow—This social business helps reduce waste by collecting food scraps from residents and businesses and turning it into compost for gardens. Customers receive a bin that can be filled up with any food scraps, pizza boxes, coffee grounds and paper products. CompostNow picks up the filled bin and replaces it with a clean one on each service day. Customers can use the resulting compost in their own gardens or donate it to farms and community gardens in the region. The company’s clients include individual households, restaurants and business offices.

this photo shows how young people are interested in composting

Volunteers spend some time creating compost for CompostNow.

A Place at the Table—This pay-what-you-can, breakfast-and-lunch café opened in downtown Raleigh in January 2018. A Place at the Table provides healthy food and community for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Payment options include paying the suggested price; paying at least half of the suggested price; or volunteering with the restaurant. Tips go to furthering A Place at the Table’s mission, and customers can also purchase $10 tokens to pass out in the community.

Carroll’s Kitchen—This foodservice social enterprise in Downtown Raleigh provides employment for women recovering from homelessness, incarceration, addiction and domestic violence. The Carroll’s Kitchen menu features contemporary comfort food in catering and grab-and-go services. Artisan items include mushroom toast and avocado toast for brunch, the Sausage & Roasted Pepper Quiche, seasonal soups, salads, and sandwiches such as the BBQ Meatloaf, the Pressed Roast Beef Wrap and the Turkey Brie, among others.

this photo shows the attractive GreenToGo packaging

GreenToGo containers can replace up to 1,000 single-use styrofoam boxes.

Don’t Waste Durham/GreenToGo—Crystal Dreisbach is leading a campaign to significantly reduce plastic and paper waste in Durham with these two operations. Through Don’t Waste Durham, she has proposed a new ordinance, recently endorsed by the city’s Environmental Affairs Board, that would impose a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags at retail stores, restaurants and grocery stores in Durham. She also founded GreenToGo, a reusable to-go container service for restaurant customers. GTG’s reusable carryout box has a spill-proof, durable design, and one box replaces at least 1,000 single-use Styrofoam boxes.

Bee Downtown—Founded by fourth-generation beekeeper Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, Bee Downtown installs and maintains beehives on corporate campuses in urban areas, helping to rebuild honey bee populations while providing turnkey, year-round employee engagement and leadership development programming to its partners. Clients have included AT&T, Chick-Fil-A and Delta Airlines.

this photo shows honey bees in action

Bee Downtown uses honey bees to teach leadership while also benefiting the environment.