Food waste is a big problem. Industrialized nations waste about 222 million tons every year. In the US, we waste about 30% to 40% of the food supply, and that uneaten food goes right to landfills, where it produces methane gas and takes up space. You may also know that one restaurant can make up to 75,000 pounds of food waste in a year. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to cut down on your restaurant’s share of the waste. Here are 7 ideas for doing just that.

1. Figure Out Your Waste Stream

The very first step in deciding what to do about reducing your waste is finding out what is getting tossed and how. You can audit your dumpster yourself if you don’t mind a mess, or you can ask your local waste collection agency to check it for you.

It is not a bad idea to walk through food processes to see where the waste starts. Some of this will be customers: the average diner leaves 17% of their meals uneaten, and half of that won’t go home in doggy bags. However, raw food scraps from cooking such as carrot tops are also a culprit. From there, you can track how much the food waste is costing you in terms of garbage rates and missed savings.

2. Get Your Ordering In Line With Your Output

No source of waste is more aggravating than raw food that has spoiled because you ordered more than you used. It is hard to estimate what you need correctly, but you can track your inventory closely, rigorously enforce the FIFO system of use, and carefully mine your ordering data information to figure out your average needs. This will cut down on your initial food outlay and the amount that goes bad.

3. Find Ways To Use Scraps And Leftovers In Your Cooking

Have your employees sort through the food leftovers and scraps for what can be reused and find ways to put it in the menu. Onion peels, carrot tops, and celery ends can go in soups. Chicken scraps can become part of stews. You can even set aside a day to feature these re-purposed scraps in inexpensive meals for families. This not only saves space in your landfill, it adds revenue to your business for very cheap.

4. Find Animals To Feed Your Leftovers To

Many states allow you to sell raw food scraps to farmers so that they can feed their livestock. Contact your local health department for the municipal regulations involved, and then call up your agricultural extension office for their suggestions. From there, you can visit local farmer markets to find people who would like your scraps. The agricultural extension will know some likely candidates, too.

5. Find Industrial Uses For Your Leftovers

Discarded grease can become biofuel, and many cities have anaerobic digestive facilities that convert organic food waste into energy. Contact your city office for ideas. In fact, many cities are passing ordinances to reward reusing leftovers, so definitely ask about their programs.

6. Create A Compost Bin

Everywhere allows people to use composted food for lawns, gardens and crops. There are many ways to create a compost bin: you can buy a classic perforated bin to put all the organic inedible stuff in and appoint a dishwasher to turn the leftovers over with a pitchfork once a week. You can get a tumbler to try your hand at anaerobic composting. You can do this in black plastic bag, too.

Once your stuff is composted, you can use it on your restaurant’s kitchen garden, pass it to employees who garden as mulch or fertilizer, give it to a local community garden, or spread it around your own personal yard.

7. Feed The Hungry

Virtually every municipality will let you give edible leftovers to charity. Do you have meals prepared ahead of time that people never order? You can get a tax deduction for giving it to your local food bank. You do have to contact the charities and ask them what they will take. They will help you how to transport the leftovers, too. If you have trouble finding a local charity to take your food, you can contact organizations such as Meal Connect and Food Donation Connection, and they can point you in the right direction.

These are just suggestions about how to do your part to conserve food. How you decide to stop food waste is up to you; just remember that every little bit counts.

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