Restaurant recycling on the rise

| September 11, 2013

What happens to all the food scraps, bottles, napkins, and condiment packages after you finish your meal at a restaurant? They may make their way to the dumpster, but more often than not, at least some of those leftovers and materials find new life in a recycling bin.

A recent article by Nation’s Restaurant News weighed the benefits and drawbacks of restaurant recycling, estimating that 60 percent of U.S. restaurants recycle at least some of their waste.


Clearly identifying recycling options allows the customer to do the work for you! From IntelFreePress.

As recycling options become more plentiful and the costs of trash disposal rise, participation in these programs is expected to increase in the restaurant industry.  Still, for some, the cons outweigh the pros in the decision on whether or not to go green. In an industry constantly facing high turnover, the time and money spent training employees on how to properly recycle waste may not be worth it for some employers.

From a numbers standpoint, it can be hard to calculate this return on investment. While in some situations, recycling may be more costly than traditional trash disposal methods, customers might take notice, leading to better public image and increased customer loyalty. As recycling becomes the norm, businesses doing so show a commitment to the community, environment, and health of their customers.

A 2011 survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association of 500 U.S. restaurants and 1,100 consumers discovered that 60 percent of restaurant patrons prefer restaurants that recycle, and 51 percent even said they would pay more to eat at a restaurant that recycles. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed reported they would be willing to sort recyclable items into the correct bins if provided. When the customer is willing to do the work for you, why not recycle?

In New York City, 2013 marked the first-ever Food Waste Challenge, in which more than 100 restaurants committed to reduce the amount of food waste they send to the landfill by 50 percent. From chains such as Chipotle to high-end eateries like Le Bernadin, restaurants began utilizing a commercial composting program and other waste prevention strategies to cut down on the city’s more than 20,000 tons of daily food waste, which accounts for one-third of the city’s total solid waste.


Composting allows organic materials to decompose into nutrient-rich soil. From Kristen Taylor.

Becoming informed and sharing that knowledge is the simplest way a restaurant can reduce waste and begin to recycle. Here are some tips to get started:

    • Know what can and can’t be recycled. Fryer oil, aluminum, cardboard, glass, paper, food waste, plastic, and steel are all eligible.
    • Get rid of Styrofoam. Styrofoam never biodegrades, so switch to recycled paper products.
    • Include recycling guidelines in employee training programs.
    • If possible, replace disposable items with reusable items.
    • Check if your city or trash service offers a cash incentive for participating in a recycling program.

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Category: Blog Landing Page, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Katelyn is an intern at SmartSign. She recently graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in professional writing and specializations in public relations and nonprofits. As a recent transplant from Mason, Michigan, she is currently staying on her cousin's couch in the East Village. Katelyn looks forward to getting to know Brooklyn and eating her way across the five boroughs.

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