How many times have you gone to a restaurant for dinner and been delivered a plate that was overflowing with food? While some people may be able to eat their own weight in steak and French fries in one sitting, most people are going to leave a significant amount of food on their plate. Many of those will choose not to bring home their leftovers. Back in the kitchen, chefs are throwing out food left and right…from your plate and from their pantry and refrigerators. The amount of food that restaurants throw away every day is staggering.
Think About This: The ‘average’ restaurant (and this is obviously from a wide range of sizes) disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year. If that one restaurant was able to find an alternate way of disposing of or using this organic waste, they would be keeping 5 garbage truck loads of trash out of the landfill. That is just ONE restaurant…imagine how much waste reduction would occur if every single restaurant were to stop throwing away their food waste!
Why do restaurants throw away all of this food instead of finding alternate uses for it? Because it is cheaper and easier to toss it in the trash. What are some things that they COULD be doing with it? Here are a few ideas that restaurants in certain areas of the country are initiating:
- Donating these materials to local farmers for use as animal feed. Liscenced Garbage Feeders can assist with this.
- Donate food that is still usable but nearing it’s expiration date to homeless shelters.
- Donate organic food waste to organizations that will compost it.
- Consider offering meals of varying sizes to patrons. Those who prefer a smaller meal can request it at a lower price. This saves the patrons money and reduces the amount of waste thrown into the trash.
There are LOTS of reasons for restaurants to look into programs like these. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects businesses from civil and criminal liability when donating food to non-profit organizations. Restaurants would be able to reduce their garbage disposal costs by finding outside sources to take leftover foods. It is also a way to significantly improve the restaurant’s image in the eyes of the public. I would certainly eat at a restaurant more often if I knew they were working to reduce their environmental impact.
- If you are a restaurant owner, check out the Integrated Waste Management Board guide called Food for Thought: A Restaurant Guide to Waste Reduction and Recycling.
- Contact the National Restaurant Association and encourage them to expand their sustainability innitiatives.
- Check out the Food Recovery and Waste Reduction Heirarchy put out by the EPA. If you are active on your town council or other civic organization, consider looking into starting a program in your area. There is a section in this guide on assistance programs available for financial help.
Reducing food waste in the restaurant business is not something many people care about. But considering how many people go to bed hungry every night, it makes me sick to think of perfectly good food heading to the landfills. And food that is not fit for human consumption still makes great compost! Vegetable scraps make great animal feed, which in turn saves the farmer money.