Zero Waste for Restaurants and Food Services

Leftover food and paper waste produced by take-out contribute to large amounts of waste being sent to the landfill.

By adopting a zero waste mentality, the food service industry can significantly reduce this unnecessary trash. This not only decreases the amount of waste going to landfills, but can also save restaurants money.

How Can my Restaurant Become a Zero Waste Business?

1. Reduce Your Use

  • Offer customers a discount if they bring their own mugs, containers, or bags.
  • Have employees use permanent-ware mugs or cups for their drinks instead of disposable ones.
  • Use health department-approved, refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual packets.
  • Buy regularly used items in bulk or in their concentrated form.
  • Ask your suppliers take back shipping boxes for reuse or recycling and to keep you informed about new and existing products that are packaged in ways that can reduce waste.
  • For a more complete list of things you can do to reduce waste please visit the California Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) for Food Service Waste Reduction Tips and Ideas.

2. Recycle and Buy Recycled

  • Set up a rendering service for your grease waste, fat or used cooking oil.
  • Set up a recycling program at your restaurant by contacting your waste hauler or speaking with your property manager. Remember that recycling costs less than trash disposal.
  • If you serve beverages in cans or bottles, place a recycling bin in the dining area for your customers’ empty beverage containers. These recyclable beverage containers can be taken to a buy-back center for the California Redemption.
  • Value (CRV); which is a State of California Program.
  • Donate old uniforms to thrift shops.
  • Buy products made of recycled materials. Click for a guide to restaurant products endorsed by the Green Restaurant Association.

3. Convert your Restaurant into a Green Building

  • Visit the City of Irvine Environmental Programs Green Building section for a guide on Irvine’s comprehensive green building program.

4. Become a Certified "Green" Restaurant

  • How green is your restaurant? Find out by taking the Green Restaurant Association quiz.
  • To become a Certified Green Restaurant visit the Green Restaurant Association.

5. Communicate with Employees and Customers

  • Get feedback from your employees on how operate the restaurant more efficiently to prevent waste and recycle the waste that is produced.
  • Keep customers informed about the implementation of any new zero waste policy. Place signs around the store letting customers know how they can help in your effort to go “Zero Waste.”

6. Invest in Sustainable Packaging

  • Assess your restaurant’s packaging practices to see if you can reduce or replace you current take-out products.
  • Avoid take-out products that are not easily recyclable or made from recycled content.
  • Limit the amount of napkins, condiments, utensils, etc. given with each order.

The Green Restaurant Association provides a directory of sustainable products ranging from bathroom tissue to take-out containers. Visit their website for a complete list of products offered and the corresponding distributors. Compostable cups, utensils and serving plates can be found at Cater Green.