Waste paper kitchen

5 tips to reduce plastic and paper in your restaurant

Por: Isabel Coderch Vergés

When we talk about sustainability in the food service industry, specially in restaurants, the big star is usually food waste. Yeah, we do throw ridiculous amounts of perfectly good and edible food, and I think we have woken up to the fact that we need to do something to fix that, and we need to do it together.

On the other hand, we hear a lot less about an equally urgent issue: the generation of sundry waste in kitchen. In foodservice industry we are all familiar with packaging and wrapping made of plastic, aluminum foil, paper, cardboard and all sorts of mixed materials, whose chemical structures are impossible for the ecosystem to digest. Generating waste also generates a huge environmental cost. We can all imagine that, right? But that is not all: waste is also red thread connected to a bunch of other issues that can affects our company from very, very close. We are talking about: economic waste caused by innefficient waste management, labor risks related to the management of large packaging, and last but not least, the image of your company.

This week, Startbucks on UK soil has announced that it will start giving a 0.50 p incentive to all of those customers that come in with their own reusable coffee thermos. Why? Because it was discovered that thanks to Starbucks and other well known coffee chains such as Costa and many other similar places, 2.5 billion coffee cups go straight to incineration heaven every year, only in Britain. Can you imagine that? 2.5 billion? Startbuck had to take a step in the right direction, and it did. 

So, let’s start from 5 easy, baby steps to reduce quickly non-organic waste produced in your restaurant or large diner.

1. Use kitchen paper roll responsibly

I bet we are all familiar these days to those gigantic buns of white paper that all restaurant employees use shamelessly to dry even the tiniest spot of water on a table. Three or four laps around the hand…In the kitchen, in the bathroom, glasses and surfaces are usually cleaned with a product that is quickly used ot throw away: paper. To make paper we need, do we need to say it? Not only to cut down trees, but to process this wood with water, energy, dies, etc. Plus we have to transport it from other countries, so that’s even more use of energy. 

Now, how can we replace paper use? Easy: paper use for cleaning is only necessary inside the kitchen. To clean windows, tables, and other surfaces, we can totally use clean cloths that we can wash and reuse over and over. 

2. At home and at school, clothe napkins

In a school that hosts 250 students, 45.000 paper napkins are needed every day. Not so long ago, it was pretty common for a child to bring his/her own cloth napkin from home. Right? Do we remember that? Well, this simple gesture can reduce the impact of a school in a very significant way. In Barcelona, La Escuela Farigola de Vallcarca (Barcelona), has made it happen. 

Also in other canteen, such as company diners or in hospitals, it is possible to reduce paper. However, the the strategy is more focused on employees’ awareness rather tan substitution itself.

Clothe napking


3. Aluminium foil  and plastic film: use what you need, nothing more. 

In the market, there are plenty of alternatives to using kilometers of throw away tinfoil and plastic. And those are called reusable containers, made of plastic, metal or glass (so that you can see through it and see what’s inside (!). Just use what you need without Believe me, your wallet and the planet will send you a big Thank You card on your birthday. 

4. Buying in bulk: a smart idea

The food industry in United States every year gives more shelf space to individually packed or wrapped food items: little bread rolls, small desserts, cookies, candies, little cheeses…and even fruit comes wrapped in plastic there! Outside of the school environment individually packaged food might seem like a useful alternative, but inside a school kitchen and diner it doesn’t make much sense, and it incurs a tremendous environmental impact. 

Therefore, gicving priority to food bought in bulk, and better if not packaged in plastic, it is always a good idea. 

5. Dear supplier, keep your boxes, thank you. 

Cardboard or wood boxes are produced with the purpose of transporting stuff, ideally more than one time, from point A to point B. But how come we assume that in point B the boxes will be disposed of? Many companies are in the process of implanting a logical and smart move: ask their suppliers to bring the food/drinks in their boxes, and take away their boxes. So the customer doesn’t have to deal with box management and disposal. 


Translated by Carlotta Cataldi

Licenciada en Ciencia y Tecnología de los Alimentos, y obsesionada por dejar este planeta mejor de como lo encontró. Lleva más de 15 años trabajando en el sector de la restauración sostenible. Su pasión es aprender y enseñar que se puede dar de comer de una forma sostenible y rentable. Cuando escucha a Major Lazer las tortillas de patatas le salen mejor.