How restaurants can reduce plastic usage with waste audit

Last month we talked about the growing demand for hotels to reduce single-use plastic toiletry bottles. Hotel chains like Marriott International are replacing plastic bottles with soap dispensers. In fact, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) recently announced that it will be the first global hotel brand to remove miniature plastic bathroom toiletries from all of its 5,600 hotels, or 843,000 rooms, by 2021. Some of its high-end resorts will offer bathroom products in refillable ceramic dispensers, while other brands are moving to larger, bulk-size amenities. Here in the UK, Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel, The Grand, has also pledged to eliminate single use plastic by December 31. It has informed all its suppliers that if an alternative to plastic cannot be found, the hotel will no longer stock the product or use the service.

Whilst the hotel industry is finally getting serious about plastic waste reduction, the food and drink sector is beginning to offer innovative, environmentally friendly products and packaging.

  • Waitrose announced two new organic wines in recyclable cans, and an Oxford branch was the first to trial packaging-free shopping which offers consumers the opportunity to fill their own containers with a range of products using a dedicated refill station.
  • Carlsberg is gluing its cans together to create an easily snap-able bond, which will supposedly remove 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste annually.
  • Walkers have rolled out a recycling scheme for crisp packets in collaboration with Terracycle whilst they develop new types of recyclable packaging.

Restaurants and pubs are also making transformative changes to reduce their carbon footprint. The first step requires a comprehensive waste audit and assessment of plastic usage. Managers can start by taking an inventory of packaging including cling-film and single-use plastics. It’s crucial to monitor bins to determine the amount of plastic waste and whether certain products are being wasted more than others. Next, figure out how much plastic is costing you and work with your suppliers to identify cheaper and environmentally friendly alternatives. Educating and training staff on updated protocol that minimises plastic waste should be offered a continual basis.

Based on findings from the waste audit, acknowledge what items you can reduce, reuse or recycle. Here are some simple but effective ways restaurants are cutting down on plastic usage and waste.

  • Use bamboo or paper straws
  • Store food in stainless steel containers
  • Refill condiments in glass, ceramic or stainless steel dispensers
  • Use lids to cover pots/saucepans in place of clingfilm
  • Offer customers alternative materials such as reusable mugs, cutlery, bags, etc.
  • Use recycled rather than biodegradable trash bags which end up in landfill
  • Find suppliers who use recyclable or decomposable materials
  • Purchase food products such as meats and poultry and fish that are wrapped in paper and packed in cardboard box
  • Swap to compostable products such as wood disposable cutlery and other plant based products
  • Use available resources like the Plastic Pollution Coalition for support and guidance

Recently a top restaurant in Edinburgh has slashed the amount of non-degradable packaging coming onto their premises by asking suppliers to send produce in cardboard or paper instead of polystyrene and plastic. Jerome Henry, the Chef at Le Roi Fou, has even abolished the sous vide method and banished clingfilm. This restaurant is committed to using more sustainable alternatives such as biodegradable paper, reusable plastics and steel containers topped with lids.

Today, consumers not only demand but expect food establishments to be environmentally responsible and offer products that help reduce plastic waste. The food service industry is making progress by turning to alternative solutions that minimise the use of plastics, but much more work and commitment is required.

Enhance is happy to partner with your establishment to help meet your goals on reducing plastic waste. Our team can perform a waste audit and work with local suppliers who offer affordable alternatives that meet your specific criteria. Contact us today for a free consultation.