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National Restaurant Association - Recycling test aims to set restaurant standard

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Recycling test aims to set restaurant standard

A program set to begin in New York City could provide a model for recycling quickservice-restaurant containers from coast to coast.

The initiative, a collaboration of Global Green USA and several industry partners, builds on earlier experiments involving Global Green, Starbucks and Pret a Manger, the grab-and-go sandwich concept. Those undertakings yielded insights such as how to ask customers to sort recyclables from other trash and where to position the collection bins so they’ll be used.

Global Green and its partnership, the Coalition for Resource Recovery, also refined the processes for getting discarded cups, wrappers and other paper packaging to mills, where the refuse was turned into new products. Those experiences proved the viability of reclaiming quickservice containers and drew the interest of additional mills, boosting demand for used paper.

In the new pilot program, Global Green wants to involve 150 restaurants of many different types. Much of the paper garbage from Starbucks consisted of cups. “A coffee shop is one thing,” explains Annie White, director of the Coalition. “Would the recycling situation be different for a brand that sells mostly food?”

Pret’s participation allayed many of those concerns. “What we learned was that customers are more alike than they are different,” Whiten says. But she’d like to broaden the variety.

The Coalition seeks volunteers for the pilot program. Pret A Manger has agreed to participate at 25 locations.

CleanRiver Recycling Solutions, a vendor that belongs to the coalition, is donating 150 of its recycling bins for the pilot. White notes that the bins provide the adaptability earlier test participants found to be a plus. For instance, they can be configured to handle up to four types of waste, along with varying signage.

The objective is to develop a recycling program that could be adopted in locations across the country. “Our expectations is that this pilot program will move that effort forward,” White says.

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