In this age of green it is not easy to practice what is being preached, or at least on the surface it isn’t. Each green step we take requires change, time and funding. Of course, disposing garbage via the traditional land disposal method, while somewhat easier, doesn’t come without its own unique set of problems. I would like to present my case for changing your current waste disposal practices for ones based on conservation of natural resources and expenses.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that whether you are running a fast-food, full-service or fine-dining establishment, finding ways to increase profit margins without affecting your customers’ dining experience is important to your survival. What we must note is that by making green changes, one can enhance the experience of the customer and also create a positive working environment for staff. In a 2008 survey, the National Restaurant Association found that 62% of diners would prefer to eat at an environmentally friendly restaurant. As the Association noted, going green is no longer an option. It is imperative.
Although waste reduction and recycling have become an integral part of many hotels and restaurant management plans, space constraints often make recycling prohibitive for some establishments. Most receiving docks are designed for trash receptacles and compactors, but not for the additional space needed for recycling containers. However, newer establishments are learning to design space for recycling containers at the building design stage to overcome this problem.
In some cases, the establishment has little or no control over the placement of containers, and because they share the disposal cost, won’t directly see a cost savings from waste diversion practices. There is also a misperception on the value (i.e., savings) from waste diversion through recycling and reduction. Often the only return value calculated is what the establishment is paid for the recyclables. Restaurants tend to overlook the cost diversion savings. When combined, the overall value is more significant.
Other barriers include a lack of cooperation from the waste-hauling community, lack of communication with employees, high turnover of employees, and fluctuating market prices for collected materials. Each of these can be overcome with time and patience.
So how do you increase the bottom line and do your part for the environment? By integrating periodic reviews of workflow practices and simple resourcefulness, restaurants can find ways to cut purchasing, waste disposal and utility costs without having a negative impact on food quality or service. While waste reduction and recycling will cut disposal costs, economic benefits will also come through resource efficiency, smart purchasing and management of end-of-life material use.
So how do you get started? The first step is to gain top-down support. Proper waste and recycling management procedures must be sponsored and encouraged by management. Make sure your employees know you support the program and the more they recycle the better.
Once top-down support is in place, recruit employees to join your new Green Team. I recommend that this Green Team help develop and write a company environmental policy. This policy will guide your green program from intiative to implementation.
A first step for your Green Team is to conduct a waste audit. A waste audit is a simple assessment of the type and quantities of material or waste a restaurant generates. A waste audit is important because it will help you decide which type of materials to recycle, reduce and reuse. Moreover, it provides guidance on the type and number of collection containers needed inside and outside the restaurant in addition to providing the metrics on which you will measure your program’s success.
Not all establishments are the same. The amount of waste and recyclables produced is affected by variables that differ from one establishment to the next, which is why a waste audit is so important. One approach is to sort and weigh several samples of your trash over time. This will provide a good accounting of your waste stream composition.
Another waste audit method involves a review of purchasing and waste removal records. These records can help you develop a decent baseline from which to grow the program. A waste audit also includes a walkthrough of your facility, noting what type of waste is discarded in each area, how material moves through the facility, and who moves the material. This information and data is then incorporated into logistical changes.
What you will find is that going green isn’t just a recycling, waste reduction and minimization issue, but a change in structure.
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