Graduate students from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University have teamed up with the National Restaurant Association to examine how best to deploy a zero-waste program for restaurateurs in Durham, N.C.
The students, all enrolled in the university’s public policy master’s degree program, have taken on the assignment as a 3-month-long consulting project that calls for analytical research and recommendations on implementation of a zero-waste program. They also will explore the challenges and barriers business operators face regarding adoption of zero-waste initiatives.
“The Duke team is helping us review and analyze how best to develop a zero-waste zone – specifically from the restaurateur’s and the City of Durham’s perspectives,” said Jeff Clark, program director for the NRA’s Conserve Sustainability Education Program. “It will be their job to consider all issues throughout the entire value chain as it affects the business ecosystem in the city. This will include examining the challenges and barriers involved and the means to overcome them.”
According to Jihye Lee, one of the students working on the project, the team is focusing on such issues as foodservice packaging, recycling, waste hauling and composting.
“We’ve really cast a wide net so far,” she said. “We’re looking at the government sector and how they are addressing zero-waste policy, and also talking to independent restaurants and franchisees in the area. Our goal is to use Durham as a test city, see what is working and help fix what is not. We hope to use the lessons learned and take them to other cities going forward.”
The students expect to present their findings to the NRA in April.