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Don’t talk trash: Tips to manage your restaurant’s waste

June 1, 2014

By Walker Lunn

For the operator deciding to manage the amount of waste produced in his or her restaurant, here's some integral information to follow.

The first thing you need to do, even before choosing a hauler, is assess your establishment’s needs. It doesn't have to be hard, and you probably don't have to do a “dumpster dive” to collect the information. The fact is, you bought just about everything you're throwing out, so once you know what's sold — and what leaves the store with your customers — you know what's left and in what proportions.

Next, figure out your organics, bottles, cans and cardboard. All of those items should be recyclable and/or compostable. When that’s completed, determine what's left; that’s your general “mixed solid waste.” By the way, if you’ve established
what's left and found a way not to buy it in the first place, you’re on your way to achieving zero waste. Imagine: it's that simple.

After completing those assessments, you should end up with a short list or chart showing each waste type and the estimated amount of each generated in a specific time frame. As long as you are uniform in your measurements, your figures will be accurate. For example, don't compare trash types generated in one day for one waste type (e.g., cans) with the amount produced in a week for another (e.g., paper). Get clear on both your daily and weekly generation. Also, if you experience spikes in the amount of waste generated because of heavy weekend business, take note of that, too.

Gathering this information should take only an hour or two, but will save you tons of time, and money in the long run.


Walker Lunn is founder/manager of EnviRelation LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based provider of environmentally-friendly waste disposal and food composting services. He also played a key role in Atlanta’s Zero-Waste Zones program, which was acquired by the National Restaurant Association in 2013.


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