Is It Possible for a Restaurant to Be Truly Zero Waste?

 In Blog, Blogs

In a bid to lower our impact on the planet, changing packaging materials and lowering car emissions all play a role, but the answer to cutting our footprint and lowering needless waste may be closer to home than we realise.

Surprisingly, one-third of global food production is lost throughout the food supply chain, resulting in negative environmental, economic and social impacts. While date labels and storage habits all form a considerable impact on food and packaging waste, WRAP reports that more than a third of the actual food produced throughout the world is simply thrown away. This figure accounts for around 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK alone, food waste from households accounts for 70% of post-farm food waste across the nation. The hospitality and catering sector are the second largest producers of food waste, with a large amount of restaurant costs simply ‘going to waste’. Food outlets have largely followed the eco-trend in recent years, becoming more accountable in a bid towards ‘zero waste’ status, but what does ‘Zero Waste’ actually mean?

What is Zero Waste?

A zero-waste approach requires forward-thinking restaurants to devise novel ways to make the most of each ingredient, including the scraps that many would reject. Not only are restaurants attempting to become healthier businesses, but many are also attempting to take care of the environment too. Restaurants must shift 90% of their resources away from garbage containers and refills to be certified zero-waste. This requires the vast majority of their ingredients, tools, and other resources to be reduced, reused, or recycled in some way. Although low-waste methods such as composting, using biodegradable to-go containers and stainless steel straws are more expensive, given that food waste accounts for around 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, the zero-waste movement has the potential to have a large environmental impact.

What steps are restaurants taking to become zero waste?

The ultimate goal of being a zero-waste restaurant or food outlet is to minimise environmental effects while maintaining a profitable business. According to Market Man, who provides a comprehensive guide to becoming a zero-waste restaurant, zero-waste status has the added bonus of establishing an eco-conscious brand among discerning diners. We have compiled a list of the top zero-waste food, packaging and environmental ideas to help your business reach zero-waste status:

Top Food Ideas for Zero-Waste

  • Audit your waste processes /practices to identify places that generate the most waste.
  • Takeaway containers should be made of compostable materials, and consumers should be encouraged to bring their own reusable containers.
  • Shop according to the season and buy locally if possible.
  • Reduce portion sizes in order to reduce the amount of food left on plates
  • Provide bins for recycling and composting that are conveniently accessible
  • Customer service: Help diners to figure out how much food they should order
  • Order perishable goods in small batches and dry components in bulk
  • Install your taps with water filters
  • Make use of every portion of the fruit and vegetables that you purchase
  • Encourage people to take leftovers home

Top Environmental Ideas for Zero-Waste

  • Collect used cooking oil and turn it into soap or sell it for biodiesel production
  • Shop locally and avoid food that has been shipped long distances
  • You can reduce your carbon footprint by presenting a plant-based menu
  • Make use of refillable soap containers that are topped up with bulk supplies
    Create a herb and vegetable garden for use in your menu items.
  • Purchase tableware that is reusable or compostable, such as cutlery and napkins
  • Use cleaning products that are organic, biodegradable, and pH-neutral

Top Packaging Ideas for Zero Waste

  • Print menus on recyclable paper.
  • Cease offering plastic cutlery, sachets and plastic straws.
  • Locate sellers, distributors and producers willing to ship ingredients in reusable or no-packaging containers.


The growing trend of zero-waste dining and zero-waste restaurant logistics gives optimism for a zero-waste restaurant sector. As the most substantial losses occur in the packaging and meal preparation processes, using and promoting eco-friendly packaging through your business is a great place to start. Head over to our store to check out our full range of eco-friendly packaging products.

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