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Blog at Chefify

3 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Restaurants

May 21 2019 - 9:49am
Plastic waste is a hideous blemish on our planet, and businesses can no longer shirk their role in contributing to the problem.

According to Wrap, the food industry produces 2.87 million tonnes of waste each year–this includes food waste, packaging and non-food waste. It’s an insurmountable figure, one that screams: Recycling isn’t enough!

According to Greenpeace, British consumers are not pleased with the lack of effort shown by some industries to reduce plastic pollution. The increase in disposable income throughout first world countries has fostered a more wasteful culture, but more and more consumers are awakening to the dangers that pollution and plastic waste poses to our planet and its increasingly endangered wildlife.

Some restaurant owners may feel like plastic is a necessary evil that helps with food preservation and storage. But the great news is, not only are there alternatives to the single-use plastic consumables you use, but there are also new and innovative ways that are helping restaurants to make small but effective changes to the amount of plastic waste they create. Let's take a look at how you, too, can achieve this.

Scrap plastic straws, bottles, storage containers and users

Okay, so you may not be able to completely get rid of all of these everyday plastic staples, and some of your clients may give you a disappointed look when their drink arrives with a textured paper straw, but by swapping your plastic straws for this far more sustainable alternative, you are already taking a giant leap towards reducing plastic waste.

In the U.K., at least 4.4 billion straws are estimated to be thrown away annually.

National Geographic

Straws are a selfish invention: they are a small, single-use, convenience item that cannot be recycled because the plastic they are comprised of is too fine to undergo the recycling process. In many countries like England, single-use plastic straws are now limited and on their way to being banned. So jump aboard and find a supplier of bamboo or paper straws.

Another creature comfort that your diners may have grown accustomed to is the abundance of plastic utensils offered with every meal. If you serve food to go, and utensils are required, seek out a supplier of plant-based utensils.

Your efforts don’t have to stop with how you approach front-of-house plastic use. Take a good long look at all the plastic that comes into your kitchen, you may be surprised just how much you accumulate unnecessarily. If you store food in plastic containers, you can swap those out for stainless steel ones. Speak to your suppliers and arrange for bulk deliveries where possible with minimal plastic packaging. Do you put out a new bottle of ketchup or mayonnaise each time one has run out? Why not scrap the plastic bottles and get glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers that you can refill.

Education

The key to getting employees and customers on board with your new plastic reducing philosophy is through educating them. Although the threats posed by plastic pollution are now widely discussed in news reports and the wider media, there are still many people who haven’t been made aware of the dangers and plastic contaminating our oceans may affect their lives.

Customers

Suddenly cutting plastic cutlery out of your front-of-house offering may startle some customers who have come to expect the free eating utensils along with their meal. So, make sure that you implement the transition at a steady pace while taking the time to educate customers on why you are shaking things up. Use your social media platforms or sections of your menu to share facts and information about the importance of plastic reduction.

For example:

Did you know, Americans use more than 100 million pieces of plastic eating utensils every day? It may take up to 1000 years for these items to decompose. The break-down process results in harmful substances leaking into the earth. To help do our bit, we’re introducing new plant-based utensils that are 100% decomposable.

Employees

When hiring, make it clear to candidates that your business prioritises environmental concerns and that you are looking for individuals who will support your efforts. You can make education on plastic waste reduction part of your induction process and continue to introduce new and improved methods of managing plastic waste in your kitchen.

Begin by creating a straightforward process for disposing of plastic waste in the appropriate recycle bins. Swap out plastic containers for metal or glass alternatives and insist that staff be sparing with plastic perishables such as cling film. If you provide on-site food and drink for your employees, make sure that all cups and cutlery are reusable.

Audit and assess your current usage

Besides helping you to create an actionable an effective system to reduce plastic waste, you could save your restaurant a tonne of money by reviewing the current state of affairs.

Where should you start?

The bin, of course. Take a good long look at what is currently stacking up in there. Is there a lot of packaging, cling film and single-use containers?

If you find that your bins are continuously overflowing with plastic waste, it may be time to address this with your suppliers and your employees.

Find suppliers that are willing to deliver in bulk or cut down on the amount of packaging they use; better still, use recyclable or decomposable materials.

You may discover that bad habits have crept into your kitchen and staff have become more wasteful with certain products. It may be time to offer some up to date training on kitchen protocol.

If you offer a self-serve counter for eating utensils to your customers, spend some time observing how it’s being used. Are people taking more utensils than is necessary? Ask your customers whether they actually use the utensils you supply or do they discard them and use their own. Understanding how your patrons use plastic will help you to serve their needs better or find suitable alternatives.

Conduct a close study of how much plastic is costing you, whether that’s through the suppliers that you use, the replacement condiments you frequently buy, the plastic cups and plates you may send customers home with: how much does it all cost and are there cheaper alternatives?

Many organisations keep ignoring this task, thinking that going green is not going to fit with their budget, but without doing the research and having a good grasp of what is currently going on in your establishment, you may unwittingly be contributing to plastic pollution and unnecessarily elevating your overheads.  

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