How To Reduce Single-Use Plastics in Restaurants

By January 28, 2020 News
CHI Blog

How To Reduce Single-Use Plastics in Restaurants

Humanity is more aware of environmental issues and our collective impact on the world around us. That’s why many people are taking action in their own lives to reduce the amount of plastic they use.

Customers are aware of the power they hold in being selective about where they’re spending their hard-earned money and choosing to support businesses that show a dedication to environmental protection. If you are a restaurant owner, you should look into ways to reduce your plastic use and your impact on the environment.

While the process for many will be gradual, there is no better time than now to start on a waste reduction strategy and show potential customers your dedication to environmental conservation.

Even if your efforts result in a higher cost, many of your customers will understand and support you. A study by Adobe verified that most people are willing to pay more for a business that aligns with their point of view, which includes an intention to reduce plastic waste.

Where to Begin?

Analyze How Much Plastic You Use

Start by inspecting what gets thrown into the waste bin every business day by staff and customers. Think about all the following that you use and whether they contain plastic:

  • Drink containers and lids
  • Utensils
  • To-go boxes
  • Storage boxes
  • Straws

Knowing what’s causing the most plastic waste gives you an idea of what you can do about it. Specifically, which changes should you prioritize first to result in the most significant improvements?

Make a Plan To Replace the Plastic You Do Use

Consider these ideas for replacing the plastic you currently use in your restaurant. Some of them have a negligent cost and won’t compromise on your customers’ experience at all.

  • Replace plastic containers with boxboard ones
  • Get reusable metal utensils
  • Switch to wood stirrers
  • Avoid obtaining raw materials that come with plastic wrap
  • Lose the plastic lighters in favor of refillable ones or wooden matches
  • Give customers the option of using their own cutlery for home deliveries
  • Encourage diners to bring their own reusable containers for takeout

Restaurants Canada is committed to supporting ongoing efforts to improve environmental sustainability within the foodservice industry. They have developed a free Single-Use Items Reduction Strategy Guide that will be updated and built upon so, it remains relevant for Canadian restaurateurs.

It’s always worthwhile exploring how your restaurant operates to find your own unique ways of saving on harmful waste. You may find that reducing the use of these materials results in lower costs for your business as well.

Buy in Bulk

Bulk goods save on costs and reduce packaging waste. Streamline your orders by searching for raw foods that require less plastic packaging and plastic wrap. Frozen foods, for example, often come with plenty of plastic packaging, and removing them will result in fewer processed foods in your restaurant too.

Also, remember that some farmers’ markets will refill your stock for you if you bring back a bulk plastic container. Doing so stops you from throwing out these containers.

Enact a Policy on Straws

Straws are a unique consideration. Many local governments have banned the use of plastic straws for environmental reasons. Your restaurant should consider replacing plastic straws with paper or metal ones. The latter is reusable and more convenient.

In case you still use plastic straws, consider not giving them out unless a customer asks for them directly. Some people with disabilities require straws to drink, so this strategy helps to reduce plastic use without alienating those with disabilities.

Steps In The Right Direction

While these changes may result in higher operating costs, keep in mind that you are not only reducing your restaurant’s carbon footprint but also giving your customers another reason to choose you over the competition.

Thinking about it from the customer’s perspective. If there are two restaurants you can’t quite choose between and one heavily advertises that it avoids plastic straws and only uses recyclable to-go containers. That difference might be enough to push a new customer to your business.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising the steps you’re taking toward a more environmentally-friendly future. Some local governments even offer tax benefits to businesses that show a dedication to reduced waste.

Finally, don’t forget the power in motivating your staff to be an active part of your efforts. Environmental protection is likely on their minds too and it can be very rewarding to be part of making a difference while helping the business achieves its goals.

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