Restaurants exploring zero-waste possibilities

The foodservice industry is exploring sustainability and zero-waste restaurants. Ahead of the RC (Restaurants Canada) Show, Stella Acquisto speaks to an Ontario restaurateur whose establishment is nearly waste-free.

By Stella Acquisto

Canadian restaurateurs are exploring how to become zero-waste businesses, as environmental sustainability grows in importance to consumers and owners.

“For as long as we live on this planet I think this will be the goal,” said Anna Pham, executive director of LEAF Canada, a not-for-profit that helps restaurants hit their sustainability benchmarks.

The concept of a zero-waste food business is on the roster at the RC Show, a three-day trade show hosted by Restaurants Canada. It will be at the Enercare Centre from May 9 to 11.

A leader in zero-waste restaurants, chef and author Douglas McMaster will be speaking at the show. He opened London, England zero-waste restaurant Silo in 2014. He wrote The Zero Waste Blueprint about his experience.

“His journey towards zero-waste has been very much up and down, but so influential and inspiring for everybody in the restaurant industry,” said Pham. “He’s taking glass bottles in his restaurant and getting someone who does pottery and comes in and makes that into his plates.”

Canada has one of the highest rates of food waste in the world — a study from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation puts it at 396 kilograms per person a year — when the entire supply chain is factored in. All this generates millions of kilograms of greenhouse gases.

Ballen Tong owns Miss Bāo Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in Kingston, which is in the process of becoming a zero-waste business. Currently, 98.5% of waste is diverted from landfills, Tong said, and the restaurant generates just two to 2.5 pounds a trash a week.

“When you compare it to a regular restaurant with our capacity, it’s about 99.5 percent better than a regular restaurant,” Tong said. One of the ways the restaurant is making the shift is by composting.

“We have an onsite composter that we installed before the restaurant opening, which processes all our food waste, organic waste, into soil into high nutrient soil, the compost. So we send it to our local farmers and in return we do get some really good priced vegetables and produce from them,” explained Tong.

Pham says Canadian restaurants are showing positive steps in reducing their carbon footprint. “It’s a change of behaviour, it’s empowering your team with a small adjustments and gestures and obviously it’s a teachable moment for your guests and your team as well.”

“It’s really tough to say that we will ever be able to see the end result of a whole nation of zero waste, but every single day we are taking very innovative steps towards making change towards limiting and reducing waste.

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