Restaurants Waste Reduction and

Waste Reduction and
Fact Sheet
Restaurants/bars have many opportunities to reduce waste and recycle materials. This
factsheet suggests waste reduction techniques and provides the steps to start a waste
reduction/recycling program.
Positive Public Image - The public appreciates restaurants/bars that make efforts to reduce waste
at the table, in the kitchen, and at the bar.
Free Publicity - Join Mecklenburg County’s Wipe Out Waste Business Recognition Program and
receive free publicity in local media.
Cost Savings - Waste reduction increases operating efficiency, decreases waste and the need for
new purchases, and reduces waste disposal charges - these all add up to cost savings.
√ Check the boxes that apply to your business.
Dining Areas
□ Serve beverages from bulk dispensers instead of individual bottles/cans, when possible.
□ Serve straws from dispensers rather than offering them individually pre-wrapped.
□ Use refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual condiment packets for dine-in customers.
□ Use reusable coasters instead of paper napkins when serving beverages.
□ Use linen napkins, tablecloths, and placemats rather than disposable paper items.
□ Distribute disposable cutlery, condiments, or other items from behind the counter instead of
offering them as self-serve. Train your counter staff to dispense a predetermined quantity.
□ Encourage regular customers to bring their own coffee mugs or drink cups (perhaps promotional
mugs or cups with your logo) by offering a discount.
□ When using disposable serving containers, match containers to meals to eliminate
excess packaging.
□ Post a chart of your waste reduction progress so customers and employees can see how well
you are doing.
□ List your waste reduction efforts on your menu; if your menu is printed on recycled paper, be
sure that it says so.
□ Serve beverages from bulk dispensers instead of individual bottles/cans, when possible.
□ Switch to reusable coasters instead of paper napkins when serving beverages.
□ Buy bar mixes in concentrated forms, then reconstitute them and portion them into
reusable serving containers.
□ Collect cardboard, plastic, glass, and steel and aluminum cans for recycling.
Food Preparation and Storage
□ Reconstitute wilted celery, lettuce, carrots, and broccoli by trimming off the very bottom of the
stalks and immersing in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes.
□ Rotate perishable stocks at each delivery to minimize waste from spoilage. Date all incoming stock,
and put it at the back of the shelf, so older stock is used first.
□ Check perishables usage levels and adjust quantity or frequency of deliveries to minimize waste
from spoilage or dehydration.
□ Label all materials with contents, storage and handling requirements, and expiration dates.
Business Recycling Info Line: 704-432-3200
Mecklenburg County Business & Commercial Recycling Source Separation Ordinance
Waste Reduction and
Fact Sheet
□ Use hourly or daily production charts to minimize over prepping and unnecessary waste or,
when possible, prepare foods only as needed.
□ Arrange refrigerated and dry storage areas to facilitate easy access and rotation to minimize
waste from spills, breakage, and spoilage.
□ Use reusable coffee filters rather than disposable ones.
□ Use refillable condiment bottles (ketchup, creamer, sugar, etc.) and refill them from condiments
purchased in bulk.
□ Buy and use dispenser beverages (juice, tea, hot chocolate)in concentrated or bulk form.
□ Collect cardboard, plastic, glass, and steel and aluminum cans for recycling.
□ Donate excess edible food to a local food bank.
Contact Mecklenburg County Waste Reduction or check the Directory of Markets for Recyclable
Materials at for local facilities that will accept non-edible food waste.
□ Implement a weekly maintenance program for all your equipment to prolong service life.
□ Keep oven equipment calibrated to prevent over-baked products and to maximize
energy efficiency.
□ Clean fryers and filter cooking oil daily to extend life of the fryer and oil. Built-up carbon deposits
on the bottoms of fryers act as insulators and force fryers to heat longer, thus causing the oil to
break down sooner.
□ Rely on a test kit, instead of guessing, to determine when to change fryer oil.
□ Recycle grease and cooking oil.
□ Ensure that grease traps are properly maintained.
□ Place rubber mats around bus and dishwashing stations to reduce glass and china breakage.
□ Install hot air hand dryers in washrooms to replace paper towels or linen rolls.
□ Reuse plastic drums and buckets for recycling or waste containers in employee-only areas.
□ Use pump-style sprays instead of aerosol cans.
□ Use multi-purpose and non-toxic or less-toxic cleaners.
□ Use cloth towels for cleaning rather than paper towels.
□ Develop a review and approval procedure for all raw goods and products purchased. The
purchasing agent can regulate the quantity of materials purchased to reduce excess and
out-of-date inventory.
□ Consider buying shelled eggs if your restaurant uses more than three cases of eggs per week;
this reduces cardboard packaging that must be disposed.
□ Buy pickles, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc., in plastic- lined cardboard, Cry-O-Vac, or foil
pouches rather than plastic pails.
□ Ask suppliers to take back unwanted packaging andpallets, use minimal packaging, or use
returnable or reusable boxes or crates.
□ Order items in bulk quantities to reduce packaging.
□ Purchase paper products–napkins, menus, placemats, bags, tissues, towels–made from
recycled paper fibers.
Business Recycling Info Line: 704-432-3200
Mecklenburg County Business & Commercial Recycling Source Separation Ordinance
Waste Reduction and
Fact Sheet
□ Buy non-toxic concentrated, multi-purpose cleaners.
□ Purchase recycled-content food trays, to-go boxes, floor mats, waste containers and liners,
and storage bins.
□ When renovating, purchase building materials made from recycled-content, such as ceiling
tiles, carpets, floor tiles, and wallboard.
□ Evaluate and adjust the size of your meal portions, if they are consistently being
returned unfinished.
□ Offer half-portions to your guests and a children’s menu.
□ If your establishment is located in an office building or mall, consider allowing people who eat
at their offices to take out food in reusable containers. You can charge a deposit for the cutlery
and china, or put a collection bin on each floor and send staff to pick up the used dishes.
□ Store and handle unwrapped paper supplies (cups, napkins, and bags) carefully to prevent
the products from accidently falling on the floor.
□ Have staff use permanent washable ware for their own meals and drinks.
□ Use reusable - not disposable - hats, aprons, and other uniform items for employees.
□ Recycle cartridges from printers and facsimile machines.
1. Commit to waste reduction – Commitment to waste reduction begins at the top. If the
management team fully supports waste reduction, employees will follow. Demonstrate
commitment with time, resources, and personnel. Select someone from your kitchen or wait
staff who is enthusiastic about waste reduction and has good communication skills to be the
Waste Reduction Coordinator. Depending on the size of your establishment and the extensiveness
of the waste reduction campaign, a waste reduction team may also be needed.
2. Know your waste – Determine the types and amounts of waste being discarded. Examine
solid waste container and dumpster contents, talk to kitchen and wait staff about types of
waste and percentages, or conduct a waste audit (contact Mecklenburg County Waste Reduction
for assistance).
3. Choose waste reduction techniques – Decide which waste reduction practices to implement,
based on such things as largest portion of waste stream, ease of implementation, availability of
recycling markets, convenience to staff, and cost effectiveness.
4. Start a recycling program –
a. Decide what to collect. Materials commonly collected by restaurants/bars include cardboard,
aluminum and steel cans, glass, plastic, and food waste. Start your program by recycling a few of
these materials, then add more materials over time.
b. Develop a recyclables plan. Involve staff in deciding which materials are to be collected, what collection containers will be used, and where recyclables will be stored. Select recycling containers
that are a different color from the solid waste containers to help avoid confusion. Depending on the
size of your establishment and the amount of recyclables, a central collection center may be needed
to transfer the recyclables for storage before pickup. Roll cart containers and/or dumpsters are often
used. The central collection center should be in a convenient location with easy access for vehicles
and employees. Conceal the area with fencing or landscaping as necessary.
c. Obtain a recycling service that fits your needs. Many recycling service options are available
locally. The best services for your restaurant or bar will depend on the type and volume of your
recyclables. If contracting with a recycling vendor is not a cost-effective option, collect recyclables
and transport them to one of the County’s Recycling Centers.
Business Recycling Info Line: 704-432-3200
Mecklenburg County Business & Commercial Recycling Source Separation Ordinance
Waste Reduction and
Fact Sheet
Locations are listed on the Mecklenburg County Waste Reduction website http://
d. Identify recipients of excess edible food. Involve employees in identifying charitable
organizations, farmers, and others that can use excess food waste. Also visit the Recycling
Markets Directory at
5. Involve/train/motivate staff. Involve all employees in waste reduction. Seek their ideas for
waste reduction and recycling collection. Provide multilingual recycling instructions, if needed.
Conduct a trial run for collecting recyclables. Where you can, supply incentives that will keep your
staff interested and motivated. Part of the money saved by switching to a reusable product could
go to a staff social fund. Existing employee service awards could incorporate employee waste
reduction practices as a criterion.
6. Monitor and evaluate. Monitor waste and recycling containers to determine what people are
continuing to discard. If you experience low participation rates or if wastes are frequently found
in the recyclables, review instructions with staff and ask for their feedback. Stress management’s
commitment to reducing waste. Record the amount of recyclables recovered from the waste
stream and reductions in purchases due to operational efficiency and by switching from disposal
items to reusable ones. Use this data to calculate cost savings and program efficiency. Also, review
purchase orders to identify opportunities to reduce supplies and purchase bulk or concentrated
materials. Publicize efforts and achievements to top management, staff, and your customers.
Recycling Tip: If space for recycling containers is limited, use stackable collection containers or
hire a recycling vendor who allows comingling.
Morehead Properties, Charlotte, North Carolina
Harper’s Restaurant, Inc., practices waste reduction and recycling corporate-wide. The corporation
operates three dine-in restaurants with bars in Mecklenburg County: two Harper’s Restaurants and
the Mimosa Grill. Each restaurant has about 75 employees and serves from 500 to 1,000 meals per
day. Kitchen and wait staff have been trained to segregate recyclables from waste. Glass bottles/
jars, #1 and #2 plastic containers, and aluminum cans are collected inside the restaurant in blue
containers marked with the recycle symbol. Other glass bottles from the bar are collected for
return to the supplier. Cardboard is collected in an outside dumpster. Harper’s also recycles
cooking oil through a local vendor.
Harper’s Restaurant, Inc., uses computerized food preparation schedules to minimize
over-preparation. This approach results in little, if any, food waste from over-preparation.
Excess edible food sometimes occurs following banquets where the number of attendees was
over-estimated. Harper’s donates the excess food to a local food bank. Harper’s restaurants also
limit the use of disposable ware whenever possible. Previously, each of the three Harper’s
restaurants had solid waste disposal pickup six days per week. With the waste reduction and
recycling program in place, disposal service has been reduced to pickup three days per week, a
50 percent reduction in waste. This reduction in waste disposal service saves about $700 per
month for each restaurant. Once-per-month pickup of the cardboard and monthly pickup of the
glass, plastic, and aluminum can recyclables costs each restaurant $95 per month. The cooking
oil is picked up at no charge. Net monthly savings from the implementation of waste reduction
and recycling activities is $605 per restaurant, or $1,815 total for all three restaurants.
Business Recycling Info Line: 704-432-3200
Mecklenburg County Business & Commercial Recycling Source Separation Ordinance