Restaurants produce a ton or two of waste each and every week. They have to pay to have that waste collected and hauled to the landfill. Shouldn’t it be possible to get them on board by providing a more cost-effective option? Easier said than done! In this post, you’ll learn the problems with restaurant composting. You’ll also learn the causes of those problems and how to overcome them.
Three Problems with Restaurant Composting
When a restaurant is not really on board with the mission of your compost business, you’ll soon run into the following problems:
Some level of contamination is nearly inevitable. The occasional coffee creamer container … a plastic fork … no big deal. However, you will eventually run into a situation in which it is obvious that someone doesn’t give a damn about the composting effort. Plastic wrap, plastic gloves, metal silverware, aluminum foil, cigarette butts, and worse show up in the food scraps containers in such quantities that it’s a real problem. Contamination takes up your time (and therefore money) to pick it out. It irritates you because it shows a total lack of respect for you and your team. Trash contamination also threatens the quality of your final product!
2. Low Diversion
As stated earlier, a full-service restaurant will generate up to a ton of food scraps per week. Even if they do a fantastic job of combatting waste, there are still plenty of food residuals (think pineapple tops) that should be composted. So you’ll be frustrated and worried when there are only a few pounds of scraps waiting for you. Or maybe there’s nothing at all.
3. Nasty Conditions
Whether you clean the food scraps containers or not, they shouldn’t be so nasty as to invite vermin, create a public nuisance due to odor, or make your working conditions disgusting. If you have hired someone to help you with this, nasty conditions increase the likelihood that she or he will quit. And who can blame them? Even worse, the conditions might even be dangerous. Restaurant grease is not only extremely smelly and gross, but it is also very slippery. You don’t want to be walking down some slippery greasy metal stairs, especially if you’re carrying or rolling a heavy container of food scraps.
What causes these problems? How can you improve restaurant composting? There are three root causes for the problems with restaurant composting. Fixing them is all about buy in!
1. The managers and workers feel put upon.
If composting is not the shift managers’ idea and if the owner or general manager does not have an effective working relationship with them, there is a good chance that the shift managers will feel some resentment. This attitude will immediately permeate and be amplified among the line workers. Left alone, this is the most likely cause for the composting effort to fail. Fortunately, this also has the most potential for improvement.
You need to foster buy-in from the folks who are resentful. The earlier you do this, the better. In fact, you may want to start before the effort even begins. Discuss ways of making the separation of food scraps as convenient as possible for them. Provide timely feedback and demonstrate that you care about their working conditions. Explain why it’s important and provide a tour of your facility. Praise the restaurant and its workers in social media and events at which you present. Ask the people in the community that support your efforts to eat at that restaurant and to explicitly thank the workers for diverting their food scraps. In addition to promoting them on social media, I have a page on my website dedicated to them.
Restaurants are notorious for turnover. Constantly training new hires will often cause some routines to be ignored. Separation of compostable waste from landfill waste might be one of the routines to fall through that crack. However, if the managers and co-workers are on board with the effort and treat the separation as a standard operating procedure of the restaurant, there is no reason that new hires won’t pick it up immediately.
3. Hectic/Out-of-Control Kitchen and Staff/Lack of Professionalism
Many kitchen workers and managers have a high level of professionalism and take pride in maintaining a sanitary and well-organized establishment. Others could care less. If this attitude is confined to a few workers, you’re probably fine. If the managers and head chefs are unprofessional, you’re out of luck.
What if nothing works?
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the problems with restaurant composting do not improve. More often, they’ll improve for a short amount of time and then regress. The fact is that the composting effort at any given restaurant is a business relationship between you and the restaurant. If the restaurant cannot or will not fulfill its responsibilities, you won’t be able to fix the situation. After all, you are too busy running your own business and life to take on theirs. If you determine that it has become a waste of your time, you need to professionally sever the relationship.
Compost Business Guides
- 7 Steps To Start Compost Business
- Market Research for Your Compost Business
- Guide to Compost Business Site Selection
- Site Preparation for Your Compost Business
- Products – Composts, Mulches, and Topsoil
- Compost Feedstocks: High C, High N, and Bulking Agents
- 3 Problems with Restaurant Composting
- Compost Business Abbreviations and Terms