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National Restaurant Association - Talking trash is a big win for caterer

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Talking trash is a big win for caterer

An Atlanta-based caterer is igniting sales as well as profits through an initiative to divert its garbage from landfills.

By recycling, composting and donating surplus food to charities, Affairs to Remember has reduced the volume of waste that’s trucked to dumps by 83 percent. What’s left: materials such as food handlers’ gloves and plastic wrap.

The National Restaurant Association member is constantly searching for ways to eliminate its landfill contributions, says Sandy Rothstein, Affairs’ green champion.

Sorting and channeling the refuse for conversion into useful materials carries a cost, Rothstein notes. For instance, it purchased color-coded bins in which trash from off-site catered events is transported back to Affairs’ production facilities before it heads to recyclers or a composting site.

But the expense is offset by savings on tipping fees, she says.

The $10-million-a-year company has landed significant business because of its participation in the Zero Waste Zone initiative, Rothstein stresses. For instance, Affairs’ composting program was a key factor in landing a contract to feed 3,300 VIPs at a recent outdoor Eagles concert. The caterer provided lunches in degradable carryout containers.

“From the savings we’re getting every month to the business we’ve gotten directly from our efforts, it’s a profitable endeavor," she says.

Despite the marketing advantages of participating in Zero Waste Zone, a locally born initiative that’s now spreading nationally, Affairs hopes that more foodservice operations will strive to eliminate their contributions to landfills. The company believes everyone will benefit businesswise from the industry’s commitment to greener practices.

Rothstein offers these tips for operators who’d like to get involved:

• Take baby steps. “It’s a constant journey, a learning process.”

• Designate one person to “own” the effort and delegate accordingly. Rothstein’s title is catering consultant, but her charge is serving as Affairs’ green champion.

• Choose your partners carefully. Affairs spent weeks talking to companies just about providing the right receptacles for composting and recycling.

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