Composting and Your Restaurant: Part 2 How To Start A Composting Program

Now that we are familiar with the composting process (explained in my last blog, Composting and Your Restaurant: Part 1., it's time to learn how to integrate this into your restaurant kitchen. Making small changes to your daily kitchen routines make it very easy to start composting in your restaurant. Some composting facilities, like Veteran Compost. in Aberdeen, Maryland, work with you to start your composting program. The founder of Veteran Compost, Justen Garrity, was kind enough to share with me how he works with restaurant staff to help them through the process. Here are some of the simple changes that can be made to help make integrating composting into your restaurant simple:

  • Choose a composting facility: Before you start the composting process in your restaurant, you need to choose a composting facility to work with. You can use websites like to find composting facilities near your restaurant. Visiting different composting facilities is a good way to help you make your decision. Once you find a composter that is a good fit for your restaurant, talk to them about their involvement with the process. Will they pick up your compostable waste? Do they help train employees? These are important questions that need to be asked before you begin.
  • Educate and train employees: A composting program in your restaurant will be useless if your employees don't care about it. It is important that every employee understands why composting is important and how to do it properly. Employees that understand the benefits of the program will be eager to help and will be more conscious of the changes made in your kitchen. Training your employees to make changes in their daily work will make the transition into a composting program much easier. Some composting facilities, like Veteran Compost, will come to your restaurant to help train your employees and staff to make sure they understand the process. If the composting facility you choose does not train, you can host your own training session to teach them the methods you want to use for your composting program.
  • Separate your trash: Separating your compostable waste from all other waste is the biggest part of your composting program. This will require a separate trash can to put all compostable materials in, along with your trash can for non-compostable materials. It is best not to move your trash cans and just add the second to the original location, making it less confusing for your employees. Items that go into the compostable trash can include plate scraps, food prep scraps, coffee grounds, unsold food, paper wrappers and liners, egg trays, napkins, and other types of paper products. All other materials (plastics, styrofoam, etc.) should go in the regular trash can. Labeling both trash cans will be helpful to your employees as they transition into the composting program. It is also a good idea to use degradable trash bags. for both your compostable and regular trash cans.
  • Make signs throughout your kitchen: Making signs and posting them around your kitchen and employee areas will help remind your employees and staff to keep up with the composting program changes. Reminding them of the benefits of composting as well as the changes they should be making will help the entire program run smoothly. It is also a good idea to make signs for the trash cans listing which materials go into each trash can.
  • Getting compostable waste to the facility: Some composting facilities will pick up your compostable material for you, while others require it be delivered. You can ask the hauler that regularly picks up your trash if they will deliver it to your composting facility, but the policies for doing this differ for each hauler. The easiest and most cost-efficient way, if it cannot be picked up, is to deliver the compostable waste to the composting facility yourself.
  • Announce your efforts: Make an announcement to the community about your composting program. Making the community aware of your efforts will help gain their support, and maybe even their business. If you are really interested in getting your program involved with the community, you could donate your finished compost (this is something you would have to talk to your composter about) to a community area, like the local park.

It seems like there are a lot of changes to be made in your restaurant kitchen to start a composting program, but they are all minor and easy changes that can have a huge impact on the environment and your business. It may require some additional small costs at the beginning, but most companies who start programs like this report reduced disposal costs or at the very least breaking even.

Justen Garrity, President of Veteran Compost, started the composting facility after returning from the war in Iraq. His composting facility operates on a 30 acre farm in Aberdeen, Maryland. Veteran Compost prides itself on being the only worm composting operation in Maryland. The business is focused around employing veterans and family members of veterans, and turning organic waste into high-quality compost.Visit the Veteran Compost website at for more information.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where I'll share some tips for composting waste yourself!
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