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How Chipotle plans to cut back on waste

The fast-casual burrito chain plans to divert 50% of waste away from landfills by 2020

Chipotle Mexican Grill is continuing to bolster its sustainability credentials under new management, after announcing plans on Monday to keep 50% of its food and packaging waste away from landfills by 2020.

The company plans to cut back on food waste, use more recycling and compost programs, donate food and conduct audits to make its goal of a 50% “diversion rate” within two years. The fast-casual chain's diversion rate was 40% last year.

“Increasing our waste diversion rate to 50% is an ambitious goal, but we feel it’s important to be assertive in our efforts to advance our purpose,” Caitlin Leibert, head of sustainability at Chipotle, said in a statement. “We remain deeply dedicated to bringing guests great-tasting food while upholding Chipotle’s values and commitment to food made with respect for the land and environment.”

The move is a sign that Chipotle plans to continue building on its environmentally friendly image under new CEO Brian Niccol, who took over for company founder Steve Ells last month.

Chipotle built its “food with integrity” image under Ells, helping push the industry in that direction in recent years.

Chipotle has been implementing a number of practices to cut back on waste. Its Mindful Prep initiative trains staff to cut back on food waste during preparation. It also involves targeted initiatives to reduce packaging.

The company adjusts services and food prep to its sales per restaurant so less food is wasted at the end of the day.

Chipotle is also working to make sure that all 2,400 of its restaurants are recycling by 2020. By that year, the company plans to have 80% of its restaurants in the Harvest Program, which donates leftover food to local community organizations.

It also plans to increase the use of composting inside its restaurants to 20% by 2020.

Chipotle also has “waste audits” to assess opportunities to reduce waste. After one such audit, for instance, the company replaced its plastic wrap with reusable lids to cut back on the plastic sent to landfills.

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