How can restaurants, caterers, & food services succeed sustainably?
EVALUATE your “disposables” footprint. What single-use-disposable products are you currently using? How much are they costing? What can you minimize?
REPLACE disposables with reusables wherever possible. Preventing packaging waste has far more of an impact than just substituting paper for plastic. Here are some ways to tackle the top offenders:
Go reusable for dine-in. Switching out disposable plates, bowls, cutlery, napkins and cups for reusables with dine-in customers is a win-win for the environment and your bottom line. Your food looks more appealing when served on real dishes.
Lose the bottled water. Water bottles are found throughout the environment, and study after study shows that tap water is healthier at a fraction of the cost. For casual dining, a water station with reusable cups is a great alternative.
Skip the straw. Straws are some of the most commonly-found plastic pollution in the environment. Skipping the straw all-together or providing reusable straws for dine-in are the best options.
Go topless. For to-go hot and cold drinks, think about ditching the plastic lid.
Engage your customers to go reusable. For to-go bags, drinks, containers and utensils, get creative in incentivising your customers to either bring their own, OR (even better)…
Rent to-go containers and cups with your branding to your customers using a deposit system. It’s great advertising for your business. Coffee shops in Europe have had tremendous success providing low-cost returnable to-go mugs on deposit, reducing disposable cups and lids by more than 40% in places.
Bulk up. Ditch the individual packets for condiments and serve from bulk containers.
USE NON-PLASTIC DISPOSABLES, but only after switching out the majority of your disposables for reusables. If you still feel like you have to use disposable products for some part of your business, consider substituting paper - or products made from other biodegradable materials - for plastic. We want to stress that disposable paper products also have a significant impact on the environment, but they are a step better than plastic. Providing disposable paper bags, cups, to-go containers and straws that can biodegrade in the environment is better than using plastic. However, many of these products are lined with plastic or other chemical coatings, some of which have been shown to be toxic. Use care when selecting disposable paper products or other non-plastic materials.
GET HELP FROM RETHINK DISPOSABLE. If your business is in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington D.C., or Virginia, contact Clean Water Action and sign up for their Rethink Disposable program, which offers technical support - including calculating the financial payback - for restaurants seeking to reduce waste, save money and shrink their plastic footprint. Please refer to Clean Water Action's Reusable Food Serviceware Guide.
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