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Maximizing Food Waste Composting through Front of House Collections: Developing Best Practices for Customer-Facing Bins

Why collect compost from restaurant customers

Restaurants generate over 11.2 billion tons of food waste annually and play a critical role in reducing and recovering food scraps. Less than 15% of restaurant food waste is collected for composting, and these efforts have primarily focused on collecting food scraps from the kitchen. However, on average, diners leave 17% of meals uneaten, and 55%of these potential leftovers are not taken home. This means there is a large, untapped potential to recover food waste generated by diners through front-of-house composting programs.

Front-of-house (FOH) composting collection has always been viewed with skepticism by composters because of the perception that it comes along with high levels of contamination and a large ratio of packaging to food scraps. However, customer-facing composting bins are strongly desirable for cities pursuing aggressive recycling or Zero Waste goals—they represent a highly visible commitment to Zero Waste and can be a valuable tool for educating customers. 

The goal of this study was to conduct needed research to quantify how much additional food can be captured from diners through front-of-house (FOH) collections, to identity the type and quantity of contamination in FOH bins, and to determine how packaging, signage and bin placement influence composting rates and contamination. 

Key findings: 

  • High diversion rates are possible in every restaurant sector:

  • At least half the food waste was already being collected in every sector.

  • Restaurants were generally using high amounts of recyclable or compostable packaging already.

  • Contamination rates were very low in three sectors

  • Changes to collection systems were likely to increase capture rates and diversion but not guaranteed.

  • Targeted outreach to specific restaurant types might be more effective than working with all food businesses.

>> Download a summary presentation of the report. 

>> Download the full report. 

>> Download the executive summary.  

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