Blog Post

The National Restaurant Association and ReFED recently released two resources designed to help restaurants improve sustainability by diverting food waste from disposal.

First, the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) report on The State of Restaurant Sustainability 2018 aims to help restaurants of all sizes improve their sustainability practices. The report identifies food waste reduction as an important emerging focus for the industry. It’s important for restaurants to pay attention to food waste as business sustainability efforts often directly affect customer choices. According to the NRA report, 55% of consumers say that efforts to reduce food waste are an important factor when choosing a restaurant.

Out of the 500 restaurants surveyed, about half are actively tracking the amount of food waste they generate, around 20% are donating edible leftovers, and more than 10% are separating food scraps for composting. The most commonly perceived barriers to donating food include liability and food safety concerns. See the RecyclingWorks Food Donation Guidance for more information about food donation laws and liability protections for food businesses.

Restaurants that are not composting cite the lack of nearby composting facilities or insufficient space on-site as perceived barriers. In Massachusetts, more than 40 sites are currently accepting diverted food material for composting, anaerobic digestion, or animal feed. RecyclingWorks also offers source separation guidance to help businesses with a limited amount of space on-site for managing materials.

Second, the ReFED Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide serves as a how-to resource for restaurant owners, sustainability directors, and other leaders in the US restaurant industry. This guide demonstrates how fighting food waste is often a win-win choice for restaurants. For every $1 invested in food waste reduction, restaurants can realize approximately $8 of cost savings on average. The ReFED guide also reveals that 47% of US consumers would be willing to spend more to eat at a restaurant with a food recovery program.

ReFed’s comprehensive restaurant solution matrix helps restaurants prioritize prevention, recovery, and recycling solutions based on the feasibility and profit potential for each solution. The report organizes food waste diversion strategies into the following categories:

  • Prevention: Tracking the food that a business throws away increases awareness of food waste within the company focuses attention on prevention activities which can cut food costs by 2-6%.
  • Recovery: Across the US, restaurants have the potential to recover 320,000 tons of surplus food annually, which is the equivalent of 643 million meals.
  • Recycling: By implementing solutions like separating food for composting and anaerobic digestion, restaurants have the potential to divert up to 2.6 million tons of waste from landfills and to reduce CO2 emissions by 1.9 million tons annually.

RecyclingWorks in MA assists businesses and institutions with recycling and food waste diversion. We provide sector-specific guidance for restaurants, including a restaurant food waste diversion guide. To speak to a recycling and food waste diversion expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at