You Should Be Composting.

An estimated 60-80% of garbage produced by restaurants and food service establishments is food waste. No matter who you are or what type of business y run, you should be composting and monitoring your food waste for efficiency sake.

But how and why? Understanding the basics of composting can help your business fight the food waste crisis impacting our industry and the environment.

Types of Food Waste

To start, there are three types of food waste to consider:

  • First is consumed waste, that is what remains after a customer partially finishes a meal.
  • Second, trim waste, the naturally trimmed byproduct of certain foods: vegetable peels, meat trims, fish trims, etc…
  • Third, avoidable waste. Avoidable waste is mishandled, spoiled or the accidental disposal of food for any myriad of reasons.

Before you begin a composting program it is pertinent that you consider your food waste stream and potential areas for improvement. For instance, a restaurant that I manage initiated a program where employees save and weigh their trimmings and scraps. The information we retrieved from that simple exercise provided valuable data in our ordering practices, over-production, identified staff training needs and product cross-utilization opportunities. There were numerous benefits.

What is Composting?

Composting is the act of properly disposing of organic material (food waste) transforming waste into a substance that can be used to help plants grow. This practice diverts food stuffs from the landfill, and into farms or gardens reducing the amount of general waste that takes up space at the dump. The less trash in the dump, the less harmful methane gas is released into the environment. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer for farms and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Composts provide a net positive to all parties involved.

It’s estimated that 33 million tons of food are sent to landfills annually in the US. It’s time restaurants start doing their part.

How to Start Composting

Depending on your local composting guidelines your facility may be eligible to have on site composting or have local waste management companies that handle composting for businesses. It’s pertinent that you check with your Health Department before beginning a program. Research the best options for your facility.

What CAN and CANNOT be Composted

Typically all fruit and vegetable waste is approved for composting. Depending on your region’s specifications, a waste company will instruct you on whether consumed food waste, dairy products and animal protein trimmings can be used. In addition, other items such as egg shells, coffee grounds and certain paper products (like newspaper or biodegradable products) can be composted as well.

Educating Staff

In conclusion, the most important step in terms of operating a successful composting program is to get people on board. Inform your staff on what can and cannot be composted, engage them on the importance of this new program and the benefits it brings to both your facility and the environment.


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Patterson Watkins

Professional Chef/Recipe Development/Nutrition Expert/Food Photography

Patterson Watkins is a freelance recipe developer and industry consultant. She has dedicated over 15 years to food service management, encompassing restaurants and corporate dining. Patterson’s work has been featured in Taste of Home, Better Homes and Gardens, American Lifestyle and Urban Outfitters. For more information about Patterson and her work please visit

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