In the US, we waste upwards of 40% of our food supply (according to the FDA). In restaurants, up to 10% of food is wasted before it reaches the customer. Some food waste can be eliminated with better planning and training but there's no way to eliminate it completely. So, what can you do with the food waste you can't get rid of? Compost it! Make sure your customers know that you're composting, it lets them know that you're dedicated to sustainable business practices.
What is Composting?
Composting is the process of breaking down food scraps, organic waste, and certain paper products with moisture, heat, and agitation. Composting results in a dark, mulch-like substance rich in vital nutrients for your garden and lawn. It's a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and your food waste.
What Can You Do with Finished Compost?
Gardeners call compost "black gold" because it's so nutrient-rich. There are quite a few things you can do with finished compost. It makes great soil for planting bulbs in the fall or vegetables in the spring. Its concentration of nitrogen makes it incredibly useful for gardens.
In your restaurant, you have a few options for what you'll do with it -- you could start a community garden and let your customers plant things, you could sell bags of compost to your customers for their home gardens, or you could donate it to a local park or nursery. Whatever you choose to do with it, your customers will love your compassion and care for the environment!
How to Compost in Your Restaurant
What You Need:
- Trashcan or plastic tote with a fitted lid
- Gardening soil or composting starter (enough to cover the bottom of your container)
1. Prepare Your Container
Before you can compost, you need to get your container ready. Start by drilling a few holes in your lid for ventilation. This way, the gas expelled in the composting process has a place to go.
2. Add Your Soil
After you've prepared your container, you'll need to cover the bottom of it with soil or composting starter. You'll need to fill it up a few inches -- just enough to create a good foundation for your composting. Make sure it's an even layer of soil.
3. Start Composting!
Start adding food and organic waste to your compost bin. During composting, the very middle of your pile will be very warm. Take some time each week to stir your compost with your shovel. It's important to distribute its inner warmth to the whole pile. If you don't agitate your pile enough, it may start to expel unpleasant odors.
You'll know your compost is ready to be used when it's nearly black, crumbly, and room temperature. This could take anywhere from a few months to a year.
What Can You Compost?
- Non-animal food scraps (fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, peelings, cereal, grains)
- Organic waste (leaves and lawn clippings)
- Compostable paper products (cups, bowls, take out containers, straws)
- Bagasse products (take out containers, cup holders, egg cartons)
- Compostable Utensils
Composting is a great way to lessen your carbon footprint. It's a simple and sustainable way to deal with food waste and disposable products. Try composting in your restaurant today!
What has been your experience with composting in your restaurant? Tell us in the comments, we love hearing from you!