How to Create a Zero-Waste Commercial Restaurant Kitchen
Restaurant kitchens are notoriously wasteful. Not only does almost every piece of food come with some form of organic waste that you don’t actually want to cook with, but most of it also comes wrapped in plastic, which is wrapped in plastic again, and then in a cardboard box (which is itself sometimes wrapped in plastic!). All that plastic and cardboard can be recycled, but the organic waste has to be composted. So what do you do with everything else? Follow these steps to cut down on waste in your restaurant’s kitchen.
Step 1: Proper Prior Planning
The first step to a zero-waste kitchen is to consider what your kitchen does that produces waste in the first place. Trash and food waste are the two greatest culprits, and you should have a plan to deal with both on-site. Composting non-meat food waste is a no-brainer. Recycling what can be recycled is as well. However, what few people realize is that, in most metropolitan areas, there are recycling facilities that can handle 90% of post-consumer waste between them. Sit down and think about what you have that cannot be composted or recycled, and make a list.
Step 2: Find Greener Alternatives
Now, you won’t be able to get rid of meat waste by buying a different brand of top round. However, almost any other product that is adding to your ‘non-recyclable’ pile will have a differently-packaged alternative that will help alleviate the problem. If a particular brand is an absolute necessity, see if they have a bulk product you can purchase that will create less waste per dish.
Kitchen cleaning products are frequent sources of non-recyclable waste, but the truth is that most of them can be replaced by the simple combination of lemons, vinegar, and baking powder or other simple, already-in-the-kitchen options. A little research should reveal several ideas for ‘green’ alternative cleaning solutions.
Step 3: Dispose of Disposables
Finally, replace any disposable items you find yourself using regularly with washable-and-reusable alternatives. Paper towels? No, dishtowels. Ziploc bags? No, moisture-proof fabric bags that you can clean in the dishwasher. The amount of disposables your kitchen goes through will probably stun you once you start planning, but almost all of them have a zero-waste counterpart on the market waiting to be taken advantage of.