Supply chains are linear processes that outline the progressive steps from resource extraction (i.e. harvesting) to end-users (i.e. consumers) and beyond (i.e. the dump). Unless you have an infinite number of inputs to feed into this system, most of the supply chains of today are, by definition, unsustainable. It simply isn’t feasible to keep taking from the Earth, rendering food products, and discarding the leftovers indefinitely. Sooner or later, you hit resource constraints.
This is especially true in a world increasingly dependent on fossil fuel fertilizers. These petro-chemicals quickly reduce soil yields, forcing farmers to continue:
- Applying more fertilizer to compensate. This of course only exacerbates the problem since the following year, even more fertilizer must be put down.
- Clearing trees to plant more crops. This seems like a silly notion when you consider that 33% of all food never gets eaten. We should be planting 33% more trees – not removing them.
- Targeting fewer crops. With lower annual yields, the stakes become higher for each acre of land. Consequently, farmers are incentivized to go after fewer and fewer high value crops, reducing our nutritional diversity.
The current model is not only unsustainable, but it is also unhealthy – both for the planet and for our bodies.
But as a restaurant owner or cafeteria manager, you’re pretty far removed from this equation aren’t you? After all, you deal mainly with customers, and thus, have zero influence on the inputs that farmers use.
Not so. Remember that whether sustainable or not, a supply chain is composed of interconnected moving parts that work in concert. When done correctly, improvements that you make later in the supply chain can have an impact on steps much earlier in the system. Through organic recycling, you can help transform a linear model of pure waste into a sustainable loop.
This benefits the entire supply chain, but there are also direct benefits to you the food service provider as well. Let’s take a look.
Benefit 1 – Waste Recycling Forces You to Better Manage Inventory
The first step in comprehensive organic waste management is to audit your processes and look for ways to reduce overall “waste.” Because you pay for all your inventory (i.e. ingredients), it makes sense to cut down on items that consistently make it to the trash, like garnishes, uneaten bread, and unpopular dishes. Less waste means more savings for you and a healthier planet for everyone else.
Benefit 2 – Organic Waste Recycling Makes Your Food Better
Companies like ours that repurpose organic waste (i.e. uneaten food) into green fertilizer help farmers reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-based soil additives. As outlined above, petrochemicals present a number of environmental and health challenges, making our food less safe.
By using green fertilizers to harvest crops, farmers ensure that you receive healthier, more delicious ingredients – indefinitely.
Here’s an indirect benefit for you as well. In addition to a healthier environment and better food, sustainable farming can also help correct America’s trade imbalance. Did you know that farmers import 80% of the $5 billion worth of fossil fuel fertilizers used in the United States each year? This seems silly when you consider the compost potential of all the food we currently throw away. Why look beyond our borders to find unhealthy fertilizers when we have so many untapped green, domestic sources?
Benefit 3 – Organic Waste Recycling Lowers Your Costs
When recycled properly, organic waste can be repurposed into green, renewable energy. Here again, the benefits closely mirror the previous tip:
- Less reliance on dirtier forms of fuel (oil, gas, and coal) to power our cities
- Cleaner air, water, bodies, and planet
- Increased savings by not having to source fuel from abroad
As a restaurant owner, you probably won’t notice any immediate economic benefits unless you personally use the green energy that is produced (and you absolutely should – contact us to learn how).
However, if enough eating establishments and farms recycle their organic waste, aggregate petroleum demand goes down for the entire country. This, in turn, lowers overall gas prices due to reduced demand. Lower gas prices means cheaper everything – especially crops and ingredients.
Benefit 4 – Organic Waste Disposal Is Often Cheaper
Unsorted trash has zero value to you or to the landfills that accept it. Organic waste does have value to companies like Re-Nuble. As a result, we’re able to price our pick-up and disposal services competitively to reflect the fact that your waste becomes an input for additional services and products down the road.
This alone makes organic recycling a winner for 65% of restaurants across the country that already have recycling programs in place. Even if you have no interest in environmental issues, it’s just good business sense to pay less for a service that you already need. This is especially true if the service helps feed into a much larger supply chain that indirectly benefits you later on.
Benefit 5 – Organic Waste Recycling Will Bring You More Clients
The restaurant industry is an incredibly competitive business. New spots open and close on a daily basis as margins become tighter and the space becomes more saturated.
There are any number of marketing strategies you can use to protect yourself – new menus, massive renovations, ad campaigns. Some will work. Some will not. As the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But would you settle for pleasing 60% and rising?
According to the National Restaurant Association, the overwhelming majority of restaurant goers (60%) prefer patronizing establishments with recycling programs already in place. I’m not even sure you can find 60% of Americans that like any single cuisine or food item. And yet, 3 out of 5 of patrons prefer restaurants that recycle.
It’s not simply enough to “have” the program – you must also publicize it so that potential customers can factor your environmental commitment into their dining decisions. Although it seems like such a small step, having an organic recycling program helps your restaurant provide a platform from which ordinary people can play a small role in bettering the world. The sustainability data Re-Nuble collects and shares with its food service partners helps quantify that betterment and solidifies our partners’ cleaner, greener public images.
Greening the Planet Requires Input from All Stakeholders
Any comprehensive strategy for a more sustainable supply chain will require input from all stakeholders, both within and without the system.
The purpose of this post was to outline what you, as a restaurant owner, stand to gain by making improvements within your direct sphere of control. In addition to making the entire supply chain more sustainable, you also receive a number of direct and indirect benefits, making organic recycling a win-win-win.
Imagine if all of us adopted similar measures.
Well, that’s kind of our goal here at Re-Nuble. By working with all stakeholders (farmers, restaurants, utilities, consumers, governments, civic organizations, etc.), we merge the food, waste, and energy supply chains to make all 3 more sustainable. Everyone benefits.