Waste Reduced Kitchen Guide

Zero Waste operations can be defined as a system for sourcing, operations, and waste repurposing to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint and operate more intentionally.

The Zero Waste journey is made of intentional changes in the spirit of progress not perfection. The goal is to reduce your environmental impact while running a profitable venture – serving both your guests, and the planet Earth.

To begin your Zero Waste journey, implement these three strategies that have been tried and tested by other restaurants:

1. The Source

Understand how your operation can improve by conducting a waste audit, followed by creating a sourcing plan. 


The goal of a waste audit is to understand what and how much waste you are producing. The most effective way to do this is to break your waste into categories [E.g. cardboard, food packaging, organic waste, etc.]

Once all waste has been categorized you must understand how much of it you produce. Most waste haulers can provide you with basic information on volume per stream (recycling, trash compost). However, it’s important to dive deeper to understand exactly what you are producing in order to make impactful changes.


Once you understand the categories and volume of waste you produce, create a thoughtful sourcing plan. Reducing the waste coming into your operation will allow you to focus on what comes out. 

Consider eliminating single use plastics and shop for compostable packaging products or products made from recycled materials. 

The more shelf stable your product the better to buy in bulk from suppliers that offer BYO or compostable packaging.

The more perishable your product the better to buy local and in small batches. Consider local farmers or purveyors in your area that are easily accessible.

2. The Operation


Consider new ways to store products. Find alternatives for kitchen utility items like plastic bags, squeeze bottles and rubber bands.


Take another look at your portions. Do guests often take food home or leave food on the plate? Scale back portions and ensure that pricing is also fairly adjusted.


Creativity with food parts not traditionally used in recipes can help you reduce food cost and waste. Consider alternative uses for carrot tops, citrus peels, seeds, and animal fat trimmings.

Art by Sloane Sarmanian

3. The Output

To ensure that products leaving your restaurant do not enter a landfill it’s important to have a close relationship with your garbage hauler. 


Ask questions like..

Where does my recycling go? 

What happens with products that have been contaminated? 

Does my organic waste become soil or does it break down in a landfill?

Products that cannot be responsibly recycled in commercial waste management facilities will require alternative methods of disposal. Consider working with organizations who recycle and upcycle products like kitchen equipment, glassware, furniture and linen. 

Case Studies

On the journey to improve the health of our planet, some restaurants have taken on waste reduction tactics at every step of their operation.

For Rhodora, the natural wine bar in Brooklyn, Zero Waste means that nothing that leaves their restaurant will ever go into a landfill, which doesn’t always mean food. Kitchen equipment, linens, tableware all eventually must be replaced but instead of heading to a dump goes straight into the hands of new owners who can recycle or upcycle the items. The team behind this project has created a handful of other similar concepts in NY and use sustainability as a guiding principle.

Another example of a restaurant taking their Zero Waste practices seriously is Nine Lives Bar in London. They promote responsible drinking through thoughtfully curated cocktails made from ingredients from an onsite garden. Food scraps go straight back into the garden and disposable packaging can be treated the same.