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Four steps to starting your composting program

May 6, 2015

Composting is a great way to take organic waste products and turn them into nutrients that feed the gardens and crops we plant to grow many ingredients that often end up on restaurant menu items.


In addition, restaurateurs can help the environment by reducing the amount of food waste they create and send to landfills by composting. For anyone interested in starting his or her own program, here are four tips on how to begin:



  1. Find a composter near you. Use the Composting Facility Locator to find a commercial composter in your area. If there isn’t one, ask your supplier to “back haul” your food waste. If they agree, this means they will pick up the food waste themselves and bring it to a composting facility. If that does not work, try to connect with a local farm or university to take your food scraps. But if you do, make sure they are properly permitted.


  1. Establish hauling services. A quick Internet search or call to your local composter may help you find a hauling service to take your food waste away. Also, talk to your existing waste hauler. He or she may be able to help as well.


  1. Train your staff. Start with the back-of-the house and get different colored bins: one example would consist of red for compost, grey for trash and blue for recycling. Also, inventory and track your food waste. Work with your staff to optimize the process. Watch this video and learn how to train your staff.


  1. Renegotiate your waste hauling contract. This is where your hard work pays off! By composting your food waste, you will be able to reduce the size of the trash bins you use to accommodate a leaner, greener operation.


Starting a composting program and reducing your food waste  will take time, training and effort, but the cost savings, employee engagement, and customer interest will make it worthwhile.


Jeff Clark is director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve sustainability program.