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National Restaurant Association - 6 strategies to keep food from landfills

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6 strategies to keep food from landfills

Conduct a waste assessment to determine how you can reduce food waste and divert it from the landfill.

Explore the root causes of your waste generation. Is it because of policies, processes or customary behaviors? Document your findings, and develop plans to address those that make the biggest impact on your business.

Restaurateurs who reduce food waste can save on operating costs, create additional revenue streams and earn tax credits for donations while protecting the environment and serving the communities where they operate, says Laura Abshire, director of sustainability, NRA.

"Our industry always seeks ways to help those in need, and this is just one more way we can achieve that goal,” says Abshire, co-chairman of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a project of the National Restaurant Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute, offers tips to get started. For more ideas, download the toolkit.

  • Go dumpster diving. Recruit a small group of employees, lay out tarps, and start sorting through trash. The exercise will help you categorize and quantify the materials in your waste stream. Consider using the Environmental Protection Agency’s WARM model. Don’t limit your assessment to food waste; recycling opportunities for plastic, metal, glass, paper, etc. should be part of your landfill diversion strategy. Plus, recycling those materials can add to your income.
  • After you’ve established what kind and how much material you’re discarding, create a baseline from which you can measure progress over time.
  • Investigate ways to reuse, recycle or otherwise find value in those materials outside oflandfills.
  • Create a waste baseline. Determine your diversion rate baseline, including historical waste/recycling data and seasonal fluctuations (i.e., all waste and recycling hauling service tonnage, by a vendor, for at least one year). It will provide insight into where you’re starting from, and the point from which you can measure your performance to goal.
  • Execute waste assessments. Identify waste diversion-improvement opportunities by looking at the materials in a sorted and weighed sample of solid waste from a compactor load. That shows what you’re throwing out.
  • Conduct site assessments. Conduct a site walk through to understand all policies, processes and employee actions related to the collection and disposal of waste materials. That will help explain why materials end up in the solid waste container. It also will give you insight into how you can improve your diversion processes and programs and reveal new best practices.  

The toolkit aims to elevate the food waste issue and enable more companies to take action. It includes key learnings and model practices from organizations that at the leading edge of this issue, says Gail Tavill, vice president, sustainable development for ConAgra Foods, one of the toolkit authors.

Says Abshire: The toolkit can teach restaurateurs and other business operators how to reduce the amount  of food waste they produce. It also can help them increase diversion from landfills and show that it’s possible to profit professionally and personally by participating in those actions.


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