Green Business: Restaurant Tips and Ideas for Waste Reduction and Recycling

Reduce waste in the following ways:

  • Buy products in returnable or reusable containers.
  • Work with vendors to minimize packaging.
  • Require chemical suppliers to take back empty buckets or drums.
  • Eliminate inner-pack dividers in shipping containers for miscellaneous supplies.
  • Require corrugated cardboard boxes instead of waxed cardboard for produce unless you are composting food waste off-site. Waxed cardboard can be composted with food waste.
  • Buy ingredients (e.g., flour, salt) in bulk, packaged in unlined kraft paper bags, which can be recycled with food waste.
  • Buy eggs shelled in bulk.
  • Replace individual condiment packets with approved, refillable containers. Refill from bulk.
  • Check food deliveries for spoiled or damaged products before accepting.
  • Store and rotate supplies to minimize loss through spoilage and damage.
  • Replace disposable beverage containers with washable, reusable ones.
  • Replace disposable flatware and tableware with reusable items.
  • Replace paper napkins and tablecloths with cloth ones.
  • Replace single-use paper hats for kitchen staff with reusable ones.
  • Use straw dispensers instead of offering pre-wrapped ones (for self-service areas).
  • Eliminate paper coasters or switch to reusable ones.
  • Donate excess food (bread/produce OK; not meat or cooked food) to food banks or shelters.
  • Discourage the printing of emails.
  • Set copier/printer defaults to double-sided.
  • Use computer fax modems that allow faxing directly from computers without printing.
  • Eliminate fax cover sheets by using "sticky" fax directory notes.
  • Eliminate unnecessary forms, redesign forms to use less paper, or switch to electronic forms.
  • Use a bulletin board or routing lists for memos and journals to reduce printed copies.
  • Reduce all unwanted mailings:
    • Eliminate duplicates by returning labels requesting all but one be removed.
    • Reduce junk mail. Guidance and a PDF kit are at http://stopjunkmail.org
    • Reduce catalogs at www.catalogchoice.org
    • Eliminate duplicates in your own mailing lists.
  • For new software, order only the number of manuals needed. Do the same with phone books. Encourage employees to share.
  • Design marketing materials that require no envelope - simply fold and mail.
  • Eliminate the use of non-recyclable packaging, such as Styrofoam.
  • In the lunch/break room, replace disposables with permanent items (e.g., mugs, dishes, utensils, towels/rags, coffee filters, etc.) and use refillable containers for sugar, salt & pepper, etc. to avoid individual condiment packets.
  • Serve dishes at office events in reusable serving dishes.
  • Eliminate single-use plastic water bottles.
  • Centralize purchasing to eliminate unnecessary purchases and ensure all waste reduction purchasing policies are followed.
  • Use optical scanners, which give more details about inventory, for more precise ordering.
  • Lease, rather than purchase, computers and printers.

Reuse materials in the following ways:

  • Reuse old tablecloths, cloth napkins and washcloths as rags.
  • Print on previously printed paper, or designate a tray on printers as a "draft" tray.
  • Reuse office paper as scratch paper.
  • Require laundry service to use reusable bags to transport dirty and clean linen.
  • Offer a small incentive to customers bringing their own shopping bags, coffee mugs, etc.
  • Reuse paper or plastic packaging materials.
  • Have your toner cartridges refilled for use.

Recycle unwanted materials including:

  • Cardboard
  • Newspapers, office/mixed paper, junk mail
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Metal cans, containers, aluminum foil
  • Plastic bottles, jugs and jars
  • Plastic buckets
  • Scrap metal
  • Landscape trimmings (green waste)
  • Pallets and other wood
  • Food prep wastes (must have commercial compost collection service)

Buy the following items with recycled content:
Purchasing products made from recycled materials conserves resources and is essential to support the recycling market.

  • Copier/printer paper
  • Paper table covers
  • Placemats
  • Napkins
  • Menus
  • Guest checks
  • Take-out containers - paperboard or Cedar Grove-approved compostable
  • Letterhead
  • Business cards
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Toilet seat covers
  • Garbage bags
  • Boxes or bags for retail use or shipping
  • Recycled or remanufactured laser and copier toner cartridges
  • Carpet, carpet undercushion or floor mats
  • Remodeling/construction materials: cabinets, fixtures, ceramic and ceiling tiles, drywall, insulation, interior paneling, composite lumber/wood, roofing, concrete, etc.
  • Sell products made with recycled content.
  • Purchase or obtain previously used furniture, supplies or materials (i.e. freecycle.org, Craig's List, etc.).

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