There was a time the negative effect on a business would be minimal if it said it couldn’t afford to be green. Today, businesses across all industry sectors accept they can’t afford to ignore it.
In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to find any market-leading brand that doesn’t have sustainability at the core of everything it does.
Why? It’s because the environment matters to the customer. And what matters to the customer has the power to affect profit and loss. Increasing numbers of consumers are seeking out responsible businesses and products. Some even go as far as to boycott brands that operate irresponsibly.
And they are behaviours that are particularly prevalent amongst younger generations; the sort of demographic most likely to spend money on eating out.
If you want millennials and Gen Zs spending money in your business you need to think green and find ways to tell your customer that story.
THE ENVIRONMENT: WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
If you’re starting from scratch, the prospect of going green can seem overwhelming. I mean, where do you start?
Food service requires lots of energy and water. It also generates a huge amount of waste.
You don’t have to change the world overnight. Even small changes over time can make a positive difference to the environment and your reputation as a business. One simple way to make a change is to think about the type of packaging and consumables you use.
Compostable packaging is similar to other biodegradable packaging, but there are some differences. The added environmental advantage ‘compostable’ has over standard ‘biodegradable’ packaging products is you have a guarantee that the materials used do not produce toxins as they deteriorate.
That means compostable products can provide the earth with nutrients once they are fully broken down. Biodegradable products also have no set time frame in which they will break down into the earth. Certified compostable packaging, such as the products manufactured by Vegware and have a guarantee that they will biodegrade under specific conditions – such as within set time frames or at certain temperatures.
All of Vegware compostability certified products become nutrient-rich compost within 12 weeks when disposed of in a BPI-certified commercial composting facility.
HOW DO I COMPOST MY PACKAGING AND DISPOSABLES?
So you like the sound of composting as an option to increase your environmental credentials. Now you’re going to want to know a little bit more about the practicalities of making organic waste work for your business and the environment.
How do I close the loop?
Closing the loop is defined as the collection and recycle of consumer waste. It is not always possible to achieve, but offers you the highest environmental returns if you can find ways to do it.
Vegware provides a ‘Close the Loop’ service that involves collection and transportation of compostable waste to a commercial composting facility. The scheme is running successfully in Edinburgh and will be rolled out in other major UK cities starting with Bristol and York in 2018.
There is a charge for the service, but you can balance the cost against savings in other areas. Because you can discard food waste along with compostable disposables you divert a large percentage of your total waste away from landfill or incineration.
This will help you cut your waste management costs because companies tend to charge less to collect compostable waste. As food makes up around 40% of total waste from pubs, restaurants, hotels and quick service restaurants, this could lead to a significant cost saving.
TIP: The average cost of waste to a typical UK business is around 4-5% of turnover (Wrap UK). Finding sustainable ways to manage waste will help you boost margins.
If you don’t live in one of the areas covered by Vegware, you can contact your current waste management provider to find out if they offer waste collection for composting or enlist the services of a specialist contractor.
In the UK, there are around 300 commercial composting facilities with the perfect balance of warmth, microbes and moisture to turn organic waste into soil.
DID YOU KNOW: 34% of all hospitality industry food waste is left on consumer plates. On average 45% is from food prep and 21% is due to spoilage
How do I sort my waste efficiently?
Organic waste will be rejected from specialist facilities if it is contaminated with plastics and other non-organic materials. You will need separate bins for organic waste both front and back of house.
What can go in my dining room and kitchen compost bins?
Compostable packaging and disposables
All fruit and vegetable waste (cooked and uncooked)
Old bread and anything else made from flour
Grains and pasta (cooked or uncooked)
Coffee grounds, tea bags, filters
Outdated boxed foods (check the packaging material)
Crushed egg shells
Undyed paper and card
What can’t go in my dining room and kitchen compost bins?
Glass, metal or plastic packaging (obviously!)
Meat or meat waste (bones, gristle)
Fish and fish waste (bones, skin)
Dairy products and fatty foods
Grease and oils
Why can’t I put meat or fish in my kitchen composting bin?
Meat and fish disrupt the nutrient-rich structure of vegetable and other food waste that break down a lot quicker
They attract maggots, rodents and other scavengers that will compromise the standard of hygiene at your premises
Your food waste storage areas will smell bad!
The items that can go in your compostable kitchen bins will vary depending on the method (in-vessel composting vs. windrow composting) used to turn organic waste to compost. Some facilities using enclosed composting methods will accept meat as a form of organic waste.
Other facilities will take food waste and compostable packaging products mixed together. Some will only take food waste and packaging separately. Ask potential waste management suppliers for exact information about what you can throw in your compost bins prior to agreeing any contracts.
WHAT IF I CAN’T CLOSE THE LOOP?
It is easier to close the loop at self-contained events like festivals than it is for quick service restaurants or ‘grab and go’ outlets. You can’t be sure how your eco-friendly packaging will be disposed of when a customer decides to take away their purchase.
The packaging will probably end up in landfill where it will take longer to break down – even if it will be quicker than the 500 years (!) it takes for a plastic bottle to degrade in the same environment.
You will still be reducing the size of your carbon footprint due to the eco-friendly nature of the plant-based and recycled materials compostable packages are made from.
DID YOU KNOW: 11 of the world’s leading brands including PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Mars and Evian are working towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.
HOW DO I BENEFIT FROM USING COMPOSTABLE FOOD PACKAGING?
There’s no easy way to say this: you’ll probably have to pay a little more for compostable packaging products. So like all good business owners, you’ll want to know what you get in return for that investment.
By using compostable food packaging products you put yourself in a great position to appeal to consumers concerned about the impact consumption has on the environment. E-commerce packaging and delivery specialist Dotcom Distribution say that as many as 61% of consumers consider green packaging when deciding where to shop. That’s already a significant amount of customers and the figure is only likely to increase as younger generations are educated in an era of increased environmental awareness.
Your business has started using compostable packaging and now you want to know more about ROI. Has streamlined waste management costs and showcasing your commitment to green issues had any effect on what’s in your till?
An analysis report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (2014) concluded that large US firms taking pro-active action on climate change saw an 18% higher return on investment than those who did not. Using a more subjective approach, The Economic Intelligence Unit found that 74% of companies they asked agreed that operating in a socially and environmental way had a positive effect on their finances.
So you know that you’ll be ‘doing your bit’ for the environment – but how exactly?
You will reduce the amount of carbon your business uses
You will divert more of your waste away from environmentally-damaging landfill
You will make a positive contribution towards reducing levels of pollution in the air, groundwater and soil
You will help to conserve resources by reducing the amount of new/virgin materials needed to make packaging products
Vegware say that in the first three months of 2018, their customers:
contributed to over 900,000kg of carbon savings
saved over 300,000kg of virgin materials
diverted over 700 tonnes of waste away from landfill
HOW CAN MY STAFF HELP ME?
Your staff can play a major role in helping you maximise the value of your compostable packaging. Waiting staff are well placed to direct customers towards disposing of their organic waste in an eco-friendly way. Kitchen staff can play an important role in diverting food prep waste into compostable bins.
The key to successful waste management will be dependent on how much your staff knows about your goals and how to achieve them.
You could try:
Training sessions to enthuse staff about the environmental benefits of compostable packaging and waste reduction
Working with your staff to devise organised workflows to maximise the amount of organic waste captured separately
Making sure your staff are clear on what items can go in your dining room and kitchen compost bins
Setting monthly compostable waste targets and rewarding your staff with treats out of the cost savings if they are achieved
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