It’s true what they say about finding treasures in somebody else’s trash.

In this case, you don’t need to look far. Look into your own restaurant kitchen and find more valuables that you never thought you have. Perhaps at this time, you think it requires imagination. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll look at that potato peel on your kitchen floor a little bit differently.

Alright, so maybe it will take more than one peel, but learning effective waste management will definitely change your perspective on what you can truly consider as waste and what you can still benefit from.

Waste management is a challenge that all industries face. Sadly, the hospitality industry is one of the significant players that aggravate our worsening climate condition. In 2010 alone, the food sector produced more than 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The major producers of food waste are restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafés, bistros, guest houses, wine bars, hot food outlets, canteens, hotels, B&Bs, etc.

What can our industry do?

Studies have shown that the main hindrance for businesses to create systems for sustainable and effective waste management is lack of knowledge.

I encourage you to have a read of the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy 2018 National Waste Policy which provides a framework for collective action by businesses, governments, communities, and individuals until 2030. This policy covers 14 strategies that aim to involve the companies and communities to work together in addressing the waste problem and creating solutions to not only resolve the issue but to generate income from it as well.

The hospitality industry involves several sectors, and for this article, let’s focus on restaurant practices. Hopefully, you will be able to pick ideas that you can apply to your own business.

The kitchen, in particular, is the central hub of it all. Your chefs and kitchen team are not only responsible for providing quality and delicious food, but they are also responsible for proper disposal of food prep wastes. Some kitchens already have an efficient team in place, but in some cases, when they need to hire temporary chefs or additional people, the system can be compromised. This is why it is vital that policies are clear and easy to understand so that everyone will be able to follow your waste management house rules.

To serve as motivation, let’s talk about what you accomplish when you practice effective waste management. How does it help your business?

    • You save on costs.


      • You reduce your food costs when you reuse materials.


      • You can also save on waste disposal services because when you recycle, you decrease the amount of waste you need to dispose of. Most restaurants pay for waste disposal, but with proper waste management, you can request to reduce the frequency of waste pickup or arrange a better deal with the waste contractors. Also, if you choose to secure recycling services, they cost less than the usual waste disposal. Another area you can save is on purchasing and delivery costs since you will be reusing materials.


      • Another way that you can save money is by having a menu which uses common ingredients or has ingredients where scraps from one dish can be used for another dish. For example, I had to make Sweet Potato Medallions for a function of 40 people, and when the prep was finished, there were heaps of leftovers. (This dish requires circular cuts of sweet potatoes so you can imagine how much portion remains from each piece.) The remaining portions after prepping the sweet potatoes can be used to prepare some sweet potato mash or soup which can you either use as a special or to feed your staff.


      • Remember that “Profit is always at the bottom of the pot.” This philosophy was taught to me when I was young. This taught me to do my best to go beyond merely getting my return of investment (ROI). Maximise what you have on hand for that’s how you generate your true revenue.


    • A reminder to be mindful of putting health and safety first when reusing edible materials! You do not want to be compromising safety issues in order to save. I hope this is clear with everyone. It is not an honest practice, and it will bite you in the end.


    • You improve customer service. How? Many consumers now are environmentally conscious and rightly so. This is evident with customers who prefer not to use disposable straws and plastic containers, and those who opt to bring their doggy bags, etc.… When you recycle, you support this endeavour and express commitment to protect the environment. You create an impact by creating a positive image. Your customers will appreciate your business for being one with them in this mission.


    • You have a chance to secure grants for businesses (if you are a small business owner) because some nonprofits and government agencies provide incentives for small businesses with recycling programs and eco-friendly practices.


    • You promote higher morale for your employees. Your customers are not the only ones getting environmentally conscious. Look into your staff, and you will find one or more who care about eco-friendly practices. Working in an environment that supports them can promote better employee performance.


    • You promote a positive impact on the environment – You keep valuable reusable resources, reduce energy, and pollution. You are also making the resources available for others to use. Greed will get no one nowhere.


Now that you know what it can do for your business, where do you start and how do you apply the procedures in your kitchens?


The first step to effective action is always Assessment. Measuring what you need to manage is a smart way to begin. This step is essential to give you an insight on your kitchen practices, learn how much garbage your restaurant create, and the quantity of waste that can be reduced through the method of waste management, recycling, and reuse. The result of this audit will provide you with opportunities to improve your waste management, which creates a long term positive effect on our environment. Last but not least, it will also help you identify opportunities to enhance your customer service and your business bottom line.

There are online tools and professional services that will help you conduct a thorough waste audit. However, if you do not have the budget at this time or you believe that your team is capable of holding the audit yourselves, then here are some tips:

    • Choose one or more persons in your staff to headline this task. Ideally, they should be involved in the preparation of meals, since they are familiar with the number of supplies or ingredients used when preparing certain dishes. Your chefs are excellent candidates.


    • Alternatively, you can choose a staff who is in charge of cleaning and washing dishes since they are familiar with the types and quantity of garbage that are left after the customers have finished dining. Better yet, choose one from each end of the service spectrum.


    • Determine two focus of your audit:


    • Before consumption- These are the waste generated during food preparation such as raw foods, vegetable, and fruit peels, bones, and unused parts, roots of vegetables, food that is rejected after cooking and not served to customers, fluids and food accidentally spilled, etc.After Consumption – These are the waste left after customers have dined, such as uneaten food or any disposable packaging that comes along with it.


    • Analyse the different kinds of trash and quantity you generate for one month. You can use a simple form where your staff can record the following information about the product – amount, the reason for waste, date discarded, the name of the employee. Afterward, you can later transfer the data in your computer for better consolidation. Other areas where you can get related information are invoices from suppliers, inventory reports, and records about the collection and garbage disposal.


    • Sort the wastes. Make your sorting procedure as simple as possible by using separate containers. Sort them if they can be recycled (such as paper and plastic) or if they can be used as compost such as food wastes. You may choose to create further subcategories. For example, under food waste, you can further sort them as fruits or meats. The advantage of having as many subcategories is that you can create more options for recycling and you will identify what is mostly wasted from your kitchen.


    • Get the weight. To accurately measure, first get the weight of the empty container. Then weigh the container with the trash. Afterward, subtract the weight of the empty container from the value to get the actual weight of the waste. If you have a container that you always use for weighing, you can take note of it so that you don’t have to weigh it every time. Record the value in a provided sheet for waste tracking. Do this at the end of each working shift, much like food inventory.


In the world of waste management, there are three crucial R’s to remember. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.


The less waste, the less there is to recycle or reuse. The simplest way to manage waste is to create less in the first place. So if you can only do one thing at the moment, then choose to REDUCE. The focus is to be mindful of WHAT YOU BRING INTO your restaurant.
How is this done in actual practice?

a. During Ordering / Buying

An efficient chef or business owner knows that it all starts from procuring or buying supplies.

Here are some ways you control waste:

    • Review your kitchen’s stock management and inventory procedures to help you order the right amount of supplies. Over-purchasing can lead to food spoilage and wastage. There are many inventory tracking systems online if this is a struggle for you.


    • Make sure your supplies are in good condition. This should be second nature to everyone who is in charge of supplies. Not only are you getting your money’s worth by purchasing items that are fresh and in good condition ( a must for quality dishes) but, you are also decreasing the chances of waste since you are most likely to use up the whole item. Think of vegetables with wilted leaves or bruising that get discarded.


    • Consider local suppliers. Due to less cost for transport, they usually have lower prices and can deliver fresh produce frequently.


    • When buying condiments, instead of using packets or individuals bottles, buy in bulk and then refill condiment bottles.


    • Buy beverages in concentrate or bulk form. Drinks can be ordered on refillable bottles, or you can serve them on taps. This will lessen your trouble in disposing of discarded bottles or cans.


    • Buy cleaning supplies in concentrate then portion them into properly labeled dispensing bottles.


    • Buy environmentally friendly cleaners that clean multiple kinds of surfaces, instead of job-specific cleaners.


    • Avoid buying items that you can only use once such as paper items.


    • If you can, purchase products with reusable packaging.


    • Purchase recycled products such as toilet paper, office printer paper, and packaging.


    • Use recycled paper when printing promotional materials and letters.


    • Consider offering compostable takeaway box or containers.


    • Talk to your suppliers about your recycling program and arrange for them to use items that are recyclable or compostable, such as using a reusable plastic tub, bins, drums or wooden pallets instead of polystyrene and cardboard boxes.


    • Arrange with your supplier to supply you without the unnecessary packagings such as double wrapping or bagging.


    • Buy non-perishables or shelf-stable items in bulk. You get rid of unnecessary packaging that you will eventually have to throw out later on. Buying in bulk also reduces costs. Of course, consider first your available storage and that they are correctly stored.


    • Purchase plastic trash bags made of recycled HDPE, they are more environmentally friendly and usually cost less. Avoid the ones made of LDPE or LLDPE.



Once in the kitchen, your kitchen staff should observe the following:

    • Inspect deliveries when receiving them. Look for bruising and other damages and reject or return accordingly.


    • Ensure careful handling of items to prevent damage.


    • Ensure that perishable items are immediately stored to maintain food safety and quality. Frozen items should be directly stored in the freezer as the unnecessary thawing of items decreases the quality of food.


    • Store food tightly and appropriately; make sure that the containers are airtight.


    • Items brought or opened first should be consumed first.


    • Keep workstations and other areas clean and organised. Workstations with clear labels will assist your staff to know where things are in place, and they will be able to use items more efficiently. Make it a habit to put things back always in the same location. Knowing exactly where things are, say for example in the fridge, it will make operations in a fast-paced environment much smoother. Plus, it is frustrating when you need something in a hurry, and it is not in its usual place. It adds up to the stress and disorganisation of the workflow.


    • Use appropriate resources. Encourage everyone to use only the items that they need.


    • In the spirit of creativity, why not create a new dish using available ingredients to reduce leftovers.



    • Establish systems so that everyone will efficiently handle plastic containers and aluminium cans.


  • Use the buckets and pails that come with pickles, dressings, mustard, and other items.


    • Identify what you can and cannot recycle. Most accepted recyclables are made of aluminium, steel, paper, and cardboard. If your collector does not take aluminium or steel cans, ask around your local area for businesses that will buy them instead.


    • Establish very clear guidelines. Make sure everyone follows your recycling program by putting the right items in particular bins.


    • Identify what you can compost and separate them. Items that you can compost are – Fruit and vegetable waste, Coffee grounds and filters, Paper napkins, Cardboard, Newspaper and Yard clippings, and wood ashes.


    • Place recycling bins in easy-to-access areas of your kitchen, office and storage areas. And to minimize laziness, place your recycling bins beside your trash cans whenever possible.


    • Make sure that your recycling bins are distinguishable from each other. You can do this by colour assignment or placing images/photos of recyclables on the signs above your recycling containers.


    • Look for extra places where recycling materials can be stored or collected inside and outside the building. If necessary, share recycling bins with other businesses. Set up an efficient glass collection and recycling system for the bar and kitchen areas.


    • Used cooking oils and fats should be collected in an oil bin for reprocessing. Oil and grease are valuable as they can be recycled into other useful products. Never dispose of them down the drain. Consider asking your local solid waste department to find out their recommendations or regulations about adequately disposing of oil. Have your grease trap adequately maintained as well.


    • Create clear posters or recycling bin graphics that stand out to prevent confusion and high levels of contamination.


    • Containers should be rinsed out before tossing in their bins. Food particles left can contaminate or ruin the recycling batch.


    • For empty plastic pails or buckets, you can donate, give or sell them.
    • Donate old uniforms to thrift shops.


    • Do community service by donating edible leftover food to a community food bank, shelter or church group.


    • Inform customers about your recycling policies and ask them to assist.


    • Check out to find recycling service providers.


    • Consider getting an industrial baling system to compact cardboard boxes, plastics, foam, to save space.


    • Consider sending food waste to organic waste recycling facilities such as biogas production. It is encouraging to know that efficient biogas can help Australia meet energy targets. Consult your municipal or waste haulier for more guidelines.


  • Composting: Check in first if there are health code restrictions in your area that prohibit or regulate on-site composting. Consult a health inspector if this is a possible option for you. Usually, a Certificate of Registration from your local authority is required
    Besides, your composting unit must comply with the animal by-product rules. You will also need to protect an on-site compost bin from harsh weather so make sure you have the space for it. If this is not possible, look for a composting facility near you. Discuss with them to find out if they are a good fit for your business.Arrange for frequent pickups so that there will be no odour issues from composting that can affect your business if it is located near you.

    Experiment with containers to hold the food waste to see which works for you as some report that plastic bags perform worse than containers with tightly fitted plastic lids in containing odours and protecting the waste from pests.


The success of your waste management plan lies in your implementers, who are your employees. The crucial step is to train them. All your employees should be trained on how to work with waste, regardless of the area they work on – be it in the kitchen, bar or serving room. Make waste management rules an integral part of your employee handbook.

Now, while you can easily provide leaflets and informative brochures and hand it out to them, you can never be genuinely confident that they are getting on with your goals and actively implementing the procedures. You need to create a recycling team and when you assign a leader, choose someone who is enthusiastic and goal oriented. This is because that person will be responsible for training the rest of the employees as well as help you keep them motivated. Your employees need to understand the importance of properly separating waste, and they should also be inspired themselves.

How do you keep them motivated?

Offer rewards and incentives once the program has started to encourage effective recycling practices.


I understand that this is a challenge for some restaurants who do not have space for bins or rooms to store their scraps. If you find it overwhelming, make small changes in your daily procedures so that you will achieve your goal. And as I have mentioned earlier, if you need to do one thing, start with reducing what you bring into your restaurant.

And when you do decide to implement it, start small scale. Pick easily recyclable materials and those that your restaurant generates the most. Once your successful recycling program in place, it would be easy to add additional elements. Plus, success will be an excellent motivation for everyone to continue with the program.

I wish you success in this worthwhile endeavour.

Ciao for now,


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