Food Service: P2 Opportunities
from food service operations can be significant if improperly managed. For
example, the U.S. EPA estimates that approximately 5 gallons of wastewater are generated
preparation of a single meal. Pollution prevention (P2) provides food service
managers options to reduce the quantities of waste generated and improve
efficiency of operations without sacrificing customer satisfaction. The P2
ideas and techniques described herein are fairly simple to implement and may be already
in practice. Information in this section can help the user make changes to save the
organization money and better the environment.
The P2 opportunities are
categorized by the major areas of food service operations:
Front of House
Back of House
- Solid Waste
- Food and Beverage Waste
- Food Storage Waste
- Food Preparation Waste
- Energy Usage
- Equipment Maintenance and Clean-up
- Solid Waste Recycling
- Employee Training and Involvement
presented are industry-specific waste reduction resources.
This guidance offers a menu of P2 items that
can help to cut operational costs and enhance the environment. The steps
below provide direction on using the provided information and going to the next
level of improvement. This section benefited from information from the "Restaurant Waste
Minimization/Pollution Prevention Handbook" developed by the State of Hawaii,
Office of Solid Waste Management, Department of Health.
- Review the suggestions in this section for
- Evaluate current operations for applicability with
those identified ideas that are practical and realistically achievable.
- Pay close attention to waste food and packaging
materials and energy, chemical and water usage. Remember these costs can be
controlled and should not be considered "fixed" costs.
- Challenge yourself to think about how these ideas fit
into your food service operations.
- Involve managers and employees to implement and
maintain the pollution prevention efforts. People that understand why
they are taking on a new task are more inclined to make it a success.
- Integrate pollution prevention into your financial decisions and make P2
a permanent way of doing business.
Front of House
- Distribute condiments, napkins and straws from behind the counter as
opposed to providing them self-serve. Train employees to give
a set amount each time or provide condiments in bulk containers and then transfer them to reusable dispensers instead of using portioned controlled packets.
- When preparing take-out food orders, minimize the amount
of extra packaging used (double-wrapping, double-bagging).
- Instead of serving drinks on napkins, use reusable coasters or serve on the bare tabletop.
- Use reusable (laminated) menus, eliminate paper inserts, and use boards (chalk,
dry erase, etc) to post daily specials.
paper placemats and paper tray liners; trays are sanitized after each use.
customers to use reusable beverage containers.
reusable metal or nylon coffee filters.
- If you sell beverages in bottles and cans, place a
recycling bin in the dining area that is accessible and easy to identify.
linen/cloth table linens and napkins and reusable dish and serving ware.
cloth cleaning towels rather than paper products.
a clearly marked and accessible recycling area for glass, plastic, aluminum
cans, serving ware and trays for customer use.
Food and Beverage Waste:
- Adjust portions if they are consistently being returned
offer guests the option of ordering
- Set up salad bar offerings in smaller containers and replenish
more often to reduce the amount of discarded salad bar food waste.
- Serve carbonated drinks from a beverage gun or
dispenser rather than bottle or can. If you have to use glass/plastic
containers or cans, establish a recycling program for the used beverage
- Use reusable syrup canisters rather than the
- Purchase milk in large plastic dispenser bags,
delivered in steel crates, and used in "steel cows" rather than
buying milk by the gallon or in paperboard cartons.
- Buy bar mixes and juice in concentrate form;
reconstitute and portion into reusable serving containers rather than the
ready to use mixes.
- Offer only draft beer instead of bottled beer.
- Check the syrup-to-water (brix) calibration for drink
dispensers at least twice a week.
- Clean drink dispenser nozzles daily to ensure proper
quantity and quality.
- Only offer water upon customer request.
- Use dry clean-up methods when removing spills from the
dining area; remove the spill/wet materials with absorbents, squeegees,
wet/dry vac before washing/sanitizing areas with water and cleaners.
- Check the ice machines and water coolers to ensure that
they are designed to recycle the cooling water and are not the
"once-through" water use types.
- Install low-flow faucet adapters and/or
automatic turn-off faucets, and low-flow toilets in
restrooms. Refer to Chapter 4 of the Water Efficiency Manual for
Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Facilities for detailed guidance on retrofitting existing units with water-saving
Back of House
Food Storage Waste:
- Inspect all produce deliveries for any substandard or rotten product and
for damaged containers.
- Establish a perishable stock rotation procedure and
promptly date all incoming products to help properly
rotate perishable items.
- Raw vegetables and other perishables should be stored
in airtight, reusable containers.
- Vegetables should be stored as far from condenser
units as possible.
- Tomatoes should never be stored near lettuce. A
gas emitted by tomatoes turns lettuce brown.
- Do not overstock. Adjust inventory levels according to
usage levels to make certain food is not thrown out due to spoilage or
- To minimize spills and breakage, refrigerated and dry storage areas should
be arranged for easy entr?e and food rotation.
- All products placed in the freezer should be well-wrapped and dated to prevent
- Hot foods that are going to be refrigerated should be placed in
shallow containers and pre-cooled beforehand to prevent untimely spoilage
and overworking of your cooler.
- Store unwrapped paper supplies securely so they do not
inadvertently fall on the floor and become unusable.
Food Preparation Waste:
- To minimize over-prepping and excessive waste, develop
hourly or daily production charts and prepare meals to order if possible.
- Instead of throwing away meat and vegetable trimmings,
use them to make soup stock.
- Reuse leftover cream-based sauces, soups and poultry,
and seafood-based menu items within two days of original preparation.
menus so that fresh ingredients are interchangeable among recipes
so produce and other perishable foods can be used in different recipes.
any edible unsold food products to local food distribution centers.
Refer to America's Second Harvest organization
which has locations nationwide that handle and
distribute food donations to the needy. The National Restaurant Association
also has guidance for restaurateurs in donating food.
food waste composting options with your local solid waste representative.
Information is available at the Compost Resource Page.
unusable food scraps for use as animal feed by local farmers. The N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental
Assistance's fact sheet on Licensed Garbage Feeders is helpful to determine
the requirements of donating food for animal consumption.
- Never hose materials down
the drain. This practice not only wastes water but
also contributes to accumulation of solids in sewer systems and organic loading at the wastewater
dry clean-up methods by cleaning spills with a squeegee, broom or wet-vac before using water and cleaners.
Discharges of fats, oil and grease (FOG) to the sanitary sewer system should
be minimized to avoid costly and unhealthy blockages and overflows from
build-up of this waste in the municipal pipes. FOG presents a
significant problem for wastewater collection and treatment systems. Many
local sewer authorities have specific limits for FOG concentrations allowed
into the sanitary sewer systems from commercial/institutional food service locations. Additionally, stringent regulations exist in most towns
that also require installation and maintenance of grease separation devices.
Facilities that may be required to install and operate a grease separation
- restaurants, bars, grills, delis, movie theatres
- hospital/school/rest home/day care cafeterias
- grocery stores, food stands
- churches,lodges, clubs
of the waste material accounts for more than 30 percent of all sanitary sewer system
overflows (SSOs) statewide in North Carolina and 50 percent on a local level. FOG overflows are expensive to
repair and cause tremendous environmental and health impacts. Cleaning
and replacement of building drain lines and municipal sewer lines is a costly but necessary
financial burden that can be significantly reduced by
implementing best management practices (BMPs). BMPS
are practical measures that when taken will help to drastically reduce the
amounts of FOG released into municipal discharge pipes. The BMPS to keep
FOG out of drains include:
not pour grease, fats and oils down the drain. Scrape grease from
serving/baking trays, pots/pans and wares and place in a container for
recycling or disposal.
not use the sewer as a way to dispose of food waste. Place food
scraps in waste containers or garbage bags. Consider composting food
waste. Check with local solid waste authorities for additional
all grease separation devices in accordance with local regulations and
that any collected grease is handled by a reputable and licensed service
provider and that you know where and how the waste grease will eventually be
employees on proper FOG handling and provide adequate tools to facilitate
ware-scraping and removal of grease before using water.
BMPs and other forms of guidance for sizing and maintaining grease
separation devices are detailed in Considerations for Management
of Discharge of Fats, Oil and Grease to the Sanitary Sewer System.
- Preheat cooking equipment according to the
manufacturer?s recommendations. Exceeding manufacturer?s specifications
can increase energy use.
- Use cooking equipment to full capacity. Fully-loaded
equipment utilizes energy more efficiently.
- Turn off backup fryers and turn ovens down or off
during low production periods.
- Do not overload fryer baskets beyond the
manufacturer?s recommended capacity. Overloading baskets can increase
cooking time and energy use.
- Check oven doors for a tight fit and to ensure
gaskets are in good condition. Adjust and/or replace door seals and
gaskets as necessary.
- Clean equipment regularly as specified by the
- Purchase insulated cooking equipment (fryers, ovens, coffee
machines) whenever possible.
The information provided in this subsection
was taken from Commercial
Energy Savings Tips from Roseville Electric
, Roseville Electric, Roseville,
- Maintain display fixtures and freezers at the
following temperatures for maximum energy savings:
- Frozen food cases -8?F
- Ice cream cases/chests -14?F
- Deli cases 35?F
- Beer cases 40?F
- Soda/dairy cases 40?F
- Keep products below marked load lines in freezers and
coolers. Overloaded displays decrease product quality and increase energy
use by as much as 10 to 20 percent per unit.
- Follow the manufacturer?s recommendations for shelf
positions and sizes to prevent increased refrigeration loads.
- Keep doors on refrigerated units open as little as
necessary when unloading or restocking.
- Use recommended night covers on low temperature
fixtures, and keep covers below load lines to reduce compressor run time
and save energy.
- Clean condensing fins and plates monthly, and inspect
for ice buildup and bent fins.
- Check door latches and gaskets on refrigeration and
freezer units regularly; adjust latches and replace worn door gaskets as
- When purchasing new refrigeration systems, select the
higher energy efficiency rating (EER). The greater the cooling capacity
for each kWh of energy input, the greater the efficiency of the system.
- Brush condenser coils weekly with a
nonmetallic brush and clean coils monthly if dust buildup is extensive.
- Check refrigerant monthly for correct charge, clean
meat and dairy cases monthly, and clean produce
and freezer cases every three months.
refrigerator and freezer gaskets annually for leaks and wear and replace as
needed; perform checks on refrigeration and
freezer units to determine whether units are level (upright doors should
close automatically from an open position). Check automatic defrost
cycles annually and have adjusted if necessary by a trained service
- Employ a weekly cleaning and
maintenance program for all equipment and follow manufacturer's standard
operating procedures. This program should include calibrating
ovens and checking pipes for leaks.
- Check refrigerator and freezer gaskets annually for
leaks and wear, and replace as needed. Perform annual checks on refrigeration
and freezer units to determine whether units are level; upright doors should
close automatically from an open position.
- Have automatic defrost cycles checked annually and
adjusted if necessary by a trained service technician.
- Oven equipment should be kept calibrated to prevent the
burning of products.
all grease separation devices are routinely maintained and cleaned by an
officially licensed professional. Contact your local water utility for
a listing of service providers.
your refrigeration unit contains CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), you may have to
meet certain air quality requirements for servicing and replacement of the
refrigerant. Contact your state air quality office for guidance in
determining if your unit falls under any specific regulations.
- To extend the life of the fryer oil, it should be
cleaned and the oil filtered on a daily basis to prevent carbon buildup on the bottom, which acts as an insulator, causing excessive heat and
therefore breaking down oil sooner.
- If multiple fryers are in use, develop a rotation system and delegate a fryer to one specific product which yields more carbon
deposits and change oil more frequently.
- Purchase multipurpose cleaning formulas in concentrated form and dilute to needed volumes in reusable containers.
- Purchase less toxic cleaning supplies. Refer to EPA's EnviroSense siteto locate environmentally friendly cleaners and their suppliers.
- Review cleaning contracts to specify use of nontoxic cleaners in new or renegotiated contracts.
- Post product material safety data sheets (MSDS) to provide information to employees on safe product usage, storage and handling.
- Clean equipment in a designated indoor area, such as a mop sink, pot sink, or floor area with a drain connected to the sanitary sewer (indoor plumbing)
- Clean equipment in a designated covered outdoor area with a drain connected to the sanitary sewer (indoor plumbing, don?t allow food wastes to accumulate in this
- Exterior lighting is one of the best places to use
compact fluorescent lights because of their long life. If you live in a cold
climate, be sure to buy a lamp with a cold weather ballast.
- Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit or a timer so
they will turn off during the day.
- Turn off decorative outdoor gas lamps; just eight gas
lamps burning year-round use as much natural gas as it takes to heat an
average-size home during an entire winter.
- Install weatherstripping around exterior doors and
operable windows, and around doors between heated and unheated or cooled and
- Install door bottoms, thresholds or door
"shoes" to seal gaps beneath exterior doors and doors to unheated
or uncooled spaces.
- Insulate exterior walls and floors, and insulate roof
or ceiling spaces to R-19 standards or above wherever possible.
- Caulk cracks and gaps around windows and doors, in the
building foundation, and between different building materials.
- Repair roof leaks. Insulation will lose effectiveness
- Repair and maintain door and window weatherstripping
to prevent water and moisture entry, which causes doors and windows to warp and
- Avoid hosing down sidewalks, driveways and parking
lots; use dry clean-up methods to reduce the amount of water used.
- Do not clean up spills by hosing into the
gutter or a storm drain; instead use dry clean up or absorption. To prevent a spill
from entering a storm drain,
protect the drain with sandbags or absorbent rags, or
temporarily seal with plastic sheeting.
- To minimize runoff to storm drains, fix equipment water leaks
from pipes and equipment.
- Avoid the use of bleach or disinfectants
if there is a possibility that the rinse water
could flow to a street, gutter or storm drain.
- Make sure tallow bins (fats, oils and grease recycling
bin), and any other containers of
waste grease, are kept tightly covered to prevent runoff into storm drain
and to prevent problems with rats and insects.
- Contain and cover all solid and liquid
wastes (especially during transfer).
- Keep trash receptacle lids closed to prevent
rainwater from entering, and never place liquid waste or leaky garbage bags
into a trash receptacle. Keep the trash receptacle enclosure locked to
prevent illegal dumping.
- Don?t hose out the inside of the trash
receptacle in areas that drain to the storm drain system.
- Soak up any fluids spilled in the trash
receptacle with absorbent pads. The trash receptacle may be hosed if the wash area drains
to the municipal sanitary sewer.
- Leaking trash containers and compactors, and
trash containers that need to be cleaned out,
should be replaced and serviced by the trash container leasing company.
- Spill cleanup materials should be kept
handy near the trash container and loading dock areas.
- The outdoor waste receptacle area should
be graded and paved in a manner which will prevent run-on of storm water.
- Store the waste receptacle in a covered
enclosure with wash-down capability.
- Consider xeriscaping by converting lawns,
trees and shrubs that require additional water to plants that need less of
this natural resource. The City of Albuquerque's Public Works Water
Conservation Office Xeriscaping Site has step-by-step information. Additionally,
- Removing weeds and unhealthy plants so
water goes only to wanted plants; mulch around plants to reduce evaporation
and discourage weed growth.
- Installing soil moisture overrides or timers
on sprinkler systems and ensuring irrigation equipment applies
water uniformly. Water in the early morning or evening when evaporation
is lowest and explore the advantages of using drip
- Avoiding runoff by making sure sprinklers
cover just the lawn or garden and don't reach sidewalks, driveways or
- Using up pesticides by rinsing
and using rinse water as product. Dispose of
unused pesticide as hazardous waste.
- Review pest management contracts to specify use of nontoxic alternatives in new or renegotiated contracts.
- Collecting lawn and garden clippings,
pruning waste and tree trimmings (chip
if necessary, and compost or dispose appropriately) and not placing clippings,
pruning waste or tree trimmings in gutters. Do not blow or rake leaves/debris into the street.
Environmentally friendly purchasing can save money in avoided
disposal costs and reduce environmental impacts. The U.S. EPA recommends the
following "green" practices for food packaging purchases; these are
fully detailed in Greening
Your Purchase of Food Serviceware.
- Pick products that easily biodegrade.
- Select nonrigid packaging (foil or paper wrap)
whenever appropriate since it is of lighter weight, uses fewer resources than
rigid clamshell containers, and occupies less landfill space.
- Use packaging made from renewable sources (wood fiber
or other crop derived substances).
- Buy recycled and/or bleached fiber content packaging.
- Use minimum weight within food packaging type.
- Incorporate a plan with your vendors to take back used shipping containers (plastic or other durable material)
for reuse or recycling.
- Whenever possible buy products in the concentrate form, particularly bar
mixes and cleaning supplies. This will save money and free space in storerooms and ultimately in the landfill.
- Use multipurpose cleaners that are nontoxic or less
toxic to nature.
- Whenever possible purchase nonperishable foods in bulk.
locally and organically grown food items to avoid the
pollution associated with transportation and pesticides. This
provides guests with the freshest foods in season.
Solid Waste Recycling:
- Refer to the Recycling Guidebook for the Hospitality
and Restaurant Industry for information on establishing and maintaining a
food service recycling program.
In addition to the guidebook's suggestions, consider:
- Offering your empty plastic
pails and buckets to area schools, nurseries and churches or explore
possible markets for recyclable materials.
- Donating all old uniforms to Goodwill, Salvation
other local thrift shops.
- Make vendors responsible for taking back pallets
and crates for reuse.
Employee Training and Involvement:
For any waste reduction program to be a success, the
employees of the organization must be aware of and involved in the efforts to
improve. Food service staff must know and understand how and why their work
performance can contribute to increased efficiency within the organization. The
following ideas will help managers and staff integrate BMPs into their jobs.
- Develop a pollution prevention policy that demonstrates
upper management's support for the waste reduction efforts. Clearly
communicate the policy to all existing and new employees.
- Incorporate recycling/waste reduction responsibilities
into employee job duties and new employee training.
- Involve staff in making decisions affecting the
organization's operations. Establish a waste reduction/recycling team
with program goals.
- Solicit and recognize employee ideas and suggestions
- Provide incentives for employee involvement and
- Have employees conduct a waste assessment to
determine the types and quantities of materials in the waste stream and ways
to reduce them. Ensure staff review purchasing practices,
delivery and storage operations, food preparation and cooking, recycling,
and cleaning methods.
- Provide feedback to employees on the P2 efforts.
Report on waste/energy reduced and money saved and highlight
- Refer to Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources
Recycling and Waste Reduction in the Restaurant Industry for guidance on establishing a successful employee-based recycling and waste
Reducing Solid Waste (Including Food
Reducing Water Emissions (Fats, Oils, and Greases
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