5 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic Use in Your Restaurant

Photo credit: brenkee/Pixabay

Plastic can be found in practically everything you use to operate your restaurant: takeout containers, utensils, bottled drinks -- you name it, and plastic is sure to show up.

Continuing to use plastic in your restaurant can cause big problems and harm the planet. In fact, single use food and beverage packaging is the most significant source of plastic pollution found in our oceans, and can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills.

Even if you urge customers and staff to recycle plastic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will get recycled. Many times, people simply throw plastic in the trash. And a variety of plastic containers and other products aren’t recyclable at all.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways that your restaurant can dramatically decrease its plastic waste. Follow these tips to use less plastic in your restaurant, and even save some money in the long-term.

Simple Tips to Use Less Plastic in Your Restaurant

1) Switch Out Your Straws

One of the easiest ways to reduce plastic waste in your restaurant is to stop giving customers plastic straws. The United States alone goes through 500 million plastic straws every day. And experts estimate that 250,000 tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans -- much of which comes from single-use plastic items like straws. Instead of offering plastic, think about using biodegradable straws made from corn, bamboo, and other earth-friendly materials which can dissolve in landfills in less than a year. Earth Straws offers both drinking straws and stirrers. 

If you must keep plastic straws on hand, just inform your servers and bartenders that they need to ask if customers want straws instead of automatically giving them out. You may be surprised that many customers will happily guzzle down their drinks sans straws.

2) Choose Compostable Takeout Containers

You can greatly reduce plastic use by purchasing takeout containers and to-go cups made from eco-friendly, compostable materials. Many takeout containers are made from plastic that gets thrown away all too often. Not only that, but when plastic is made, the production process can wreak havoc on the environment. Using compostable takeout containers creates much less waste and it can decompose quickly after being thrown away. Plus, biodegradable, compostable containers are made from renewable materials which lessens your carbon footprint.

3) Email Receipts to Customers

While you are probably aware that emailing receipts to customers can reduce paper waste, you may not know that it can also help you reduce plastic use in some capacity. Many receipts found in restaurants include the toxic chemical, bisphenol A (BPA) which has been used to make certain plastics for decades. Because of its toxicity to humans, the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups nationwide. And many manufacturers stopped including BPA in their products even before the ban. However, BPA can still be found in other types of plastic products -- including your restaurant receipt paper.

If the receipts you’re handing to customers are coated with BPA, they are more than likely winding up in the trash. When this happens, the harmful, industrial chemical can leach into the ground and contaminate the Earth. Think about switching to an email receipt program, or even change your restaurant receipts to BPA-free paper for those customers who like to keep their receipts on hand.

4) Replace Plastic Menus with Recycled Paper

While plastic-covered menus are undeniably easy for your staff to get clean, they are also not doing any favors for the environment. Choosing to print your restaurant menus on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper is a simple solution to combatting the world’s growing plastic waste problem. Even better: Go old school with a written chalkboard menu. This can be especially helpful if your restaurant changes its offerings per what’s local and in-season.

5) Switch to an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Bottled Water

If you’re still offering plastic bottles of water to customers and staff, it’s time to rethink the way you’re serving water. A whopping 80 percent of plastic water bottles are thrown in the trash -- even when recycling bins are available! Think about installing a restaurant water dispenser to cut down on plastic waste (and shipping costs).

 An in-house restaurant water filtration system is a less energy-intensive option that uses your restaurant’s water lines to produce the cleanest, safest, best-tasting drinking water. If you typically serve sparkling water in bottles, countertop water dispensers can even provide sparkling water on-demand.

These are just some simple tips to reduce plastic use in your restaurant. If you want to take your sustainability efforts even further, try these eco-friendly restaurant ideas.

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