Why collect compost from restaurant customers
Restaurants generate over 11.2 billion tons of food waste annually and play a critical role in reducing and recovering food scraps. Less than 15% of restaurant food waste is collected for composting, and these efforts have primarily focused on collecting food scraps from the kitchen. However, on average, diners leave 17% of meals uneaten, and 55%of these potential leftovers are not taken home. This means there is a large, untapped potential to recover food waste generated by diners through front-of-house composting programs.
Front-of-house (FOH) compost collection has always been viewed with skepticism by composters because of the perception that it comes along with high levels of contamination and a large ratio of packaging to food scraps. However, customer-facing composting bins are strongly desirable for cities pursuing aggressive recycling or Zero Waste goals—they represent a highly visible commitment to Zero Waste and can be a valuable tool for educating customers.
The goal of this study was to conduct needed research to quantify how much additional food can be captured from diners through front-of-house (FOH) collections, to identity the type and quantity of contamination in FOH bins, and to determine how packaging, signage and bin placement influence composting rates and contamination.
High diversion rates are possible in every restaurant sector:
At least half the food waste was already being collected in every sector.
Restaurants were generally using high amounts of recyclable or compostable packaging already.
Contamination rates were very low in three sectors
Changes to collection systems were likely to increase capture rates and diversion but not guaranteed.
Targeted outreach to specific restaurant types might be more effective than working with all food businesses.
Interested in conducting a similar study in your city?