Blog Post

According to the USDA, approximately half of the average American’s food budget is allocated to meals eaten outside the home. As quick service and fast casual restaurants become ubiquitous, there is also an associated increase in the amount of waste produced.

Many Boston area restaurants are taking steps through their purchasing and operations to reduce waste. By addressing both back-of-house and consumer-facing challenges, they are able to realize both environmental and financial gains. Metro recently reported on the innovative programs that restaurants in the Boston area are implementing.

Source Reduction

Many restaurants are tackling waste reduction at the source through sustainable purchasing practices and elimination of single-use plastics. For example, Davio’s, Coppa, Little Donkey, and Toro have all eliminated plastic straws from their operations. These items are too small and light to be recycled, as they often get lost in transit and within the recycling facility. To address the waste associated with takeout meals, restaurants like Five Horses Tavern have chosen to stop including plastic cutlery with to-go orders, and diners at Myers + Cheng are encouraged to bring their own bag.

Creative Menu Planning

In addition to changing purchasing patterns, some restaurants are designing meals to reduce food and packaging waste. One creative method of menu planning is at The Longfellow Bar in Cambridge. The chef intentionally designed the majority of their meals to be eaten without silverware, eliminating the need for utensils and their associated waste, water, and energy usage. South End restaurants Shore Leave and No Relation share ingredients to minimize food waste, which encourages further collaboration and the spread of sustainable practices. For example, No Relation saves its leftover sushi rice for use in Shore Leave’s crispy rice salad.

Food Donation

After source reduction, the US EPA ranks feeding hungry people as the highest priority for reducing food waste. Myers + Chang have partnered with Boston-based Lovin’ Spoonfuls Food Rescue to donate edible food that is leftover at the end of the day to the local community. RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) has developed food donation guidance to help your business get started.

RecyclingWorks has worked with restaurants across the state to identify opportunities for waste diversion. Our no-cost technical assistance helps businesses and institutions implement programs that prevent, recover, and divert waste from going to disposal. RecyclingWorks offers sector-specific guidance for restaurants, which includes tips for waste ban compliance and case studies featuring restaurants. To speak to a recycling and food waste expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at