Sustainability has become more important than ever (see United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). Yet sustainability efforts within the foodservice industry can feel complicated and never-ending—always something else to do, another product to research, another campaign to initiate. For operators, it can be overwhelming to decide what to focus on, where to start and which strategies to apply.
Following are five pillars of sustainability that restaurants can ascribe to for reducing waste, using resources more efficiently and streamlining their environmental footprint across the operation.
1) Source paper products from a sustainable source
Restaurants building a sustainability program can begin by working from the bottom up, starting with sourcing of paper products. From napkins and cups to paper towels, consider your providers carefully and ensure the paper products you purchase are certified by organizations that promote the responsible management of the world’s forests … such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Verifying your paper products are from responsibly sourced fiber helps to ensure a healthier planet.
2) Install portion-controlling dispensers to limit overuse and waste
Fewer things can cause more ire for an operator than watching customers grab handfuls of cutlery, napkins or paper towels. Whether they’re taking them home with a to-go order or sharing amongst the table, the result is the same: More resources are taken and thrown away than necessary.
Efficient manual dispensers and contemporary automated dispensers can help control output so guests take only what they need. For example, auto napkin machines, can help reduce napkin usage by 35%* which means less landfill waste, less inventory to restock and potential operator savings. Similar results are experienced with cutlery and paper towels. Plus, many dispensing systems offer a more efficient and hygienic guest experience.
*When switching from a 13”x12” full-fold napkin to the Dixie Ultra® SmartStock® napkin in a limited service restaurant.
3) Eliminate Packaging Waste
Choosing coreless toilet paper products—which has substantially less packaging waste than standard toilet paper by eliminating cardboard cores, inner wraps and outer boxing—is just one way that operators can trim the amount of product used in their restaurants.
By reducing waste, as well as rethinking to-go packaging, operators can save a lot—both in product and in cost.
4) Incorporate more recycled content into restaurant operations
Recycled content helps support a circular economy, falling under the “reuse” portion of “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra associated with many sustainability efforts.
Look for suppliers that offer a range of paper products with high recycled-content percentages. For instance, Georgia-Pacific offers more than 140 products that contain at least 95% recycled fiber.
5) Provide recyclable or compostable materials and products where it makes sense
Finally, where you have access to developed infrastructure, use recyclable or compostable paper products and packaging. According to Technomic’s recent Foodservice Disposable Packaging Multi Client Study, more than 70% of consumers agree it is important for restaurants to offer environmentally friendly packaging. Infrastructure, however, is critical. Many major metropolitan areas lack adequate infrastructure for supporting recycling and composting of food service packaging. In such locations, recyclable and compostable products will just end up in the landfill creating little environmental value. Work with your customers, area regulators, and other stakeholders to chart a course toward improved recycling and composting infrastructure.