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National Restaurant Association - Rick Bayless: Compost and end food waste

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Rick Bayless: Compost and end food waste

Renowned chef, TV personality and author Rick Bayless shares his thoughts on composting and the importance of diverting food waste from landfills. The owner-operator of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, XOCO, Frontera Fresco, Tortas Frontera and Red O restaurants, is passionate about sustainability and has been a pioneer in its practice for many years.

A long time ago, I became consumed with the amount of food waste we sent to landfill and was determined to reduce it. I knew we could take that food waste, compost it, and turn it into something beneficial.

Today at our restaurants, we compost basically 100 percent of our pre- and post-consumer food waste, and I’m proud to say we were the first restaurant in Chicago to do that.

I know a lot of people say composting is too hard, but, really, it’s one of the simplest things in the world to do. Yes, we have to source-separate -- do the dividing -- but that’s easy.

When we started, we got our program up and running in one day, and it’s been just as simple for us to maintain it. Our people got it immediately. They began by separating out the garbage. We were composting everything that was compostable. Every once in a while someone would say, ‘Wait, why are you putting this into that food [bin]?’ But for the most part, everyone knew what to do and where everything went.

The first thing we did was buy round and square trash cans. The round trash cans got all of the food waste and the square trash cans got everything else. We also set aside a place where we could divide up the cardboard, glass, plastics and any sort of tin products we might have around here, though we’ve since found there aren’t many.

The hardest part? Finding a composter. But we’ve been lucky. We found this guy that we’ve been composting with for 15 years. We did have a few bumps in the road at first and needed to do some things to fix them, but it’s worked out well. Everyone is happy.

Dealing with food waste is a big deal. Too many of us are putting too much of it into landfills and we don’t need to. We can find better uses for it.

See Chef Bayless, pictured top right, at NRA Show 2015, May 16-19 in Chicago. For information on sustainable tips and tools for the restaurant industry, visit the NRA's Conserve program.

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