Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and Reap the Rewards

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – And Reap the Rewards statement

There are three easy ways to cut down your waste that can make a big difference to the amount that ends up in the landfill. These are known as the 'Three Rs' – reduce, reuse and recycle.

As a café owner, there are ways to apply the mantra to your business – and in the process save money.

Restaurants and cafés typically produce between 1.7 to 7.3 kg of waste for each full-time employee a day and surprisingly, more than half of this waste currently sent to landfill is recyclable. The reasons it isn’t being recycled is because most of us don’t really care about waste unless of course, it costs us money or better still, it can make us money. Review your accounts and identify the cost of waste collection.

So there you have it … CHA-CHING! Cash… probably the most powerful motivator for consumers and business owners alike. Now that I have your attention, I will explain how you can turn your trash into cash.

It is critical to think about where waste comes from, not just where it goes and to identify opportunities for waste sorting, minimisation, reuse and recycling. However, before you reduce, reuse and recycle, you should look for ways to avoid unnecessary waste.

Between June and August 2008, a study found that 74 per cent of total food wasted in Sydney was thrown away before it even got to the consumer. This means you could literally be throwing money in the bin.

Do a Food Waste Assessment – the first step to reducing food waste is to measure and track the amount, type, and reason for its generation. Knowing how much and why food waste is generated will help a business create targeted food waste prevention strategies. This baseline information also serves as a marker for measuring your diversion rate and change in spending.

To avoid food waste, firstly make sure products from suppliers are in good condition. You should store perishable items immediately to maintain food safety and quality. By opting to purchase locally produced food, you are reducing the amount of food that could potentially be spoiled in transit.

Order and prepare appropriate amounts of food; cater to individual needs by offering customers a choice of serving sizes. Consider a small menu with a limited number of meals per day to reduce food stocks. This ensures that the food is fresh and that waste is reduced. If the excess of a particular ingredient is identified, run specials to use up the ingredient more quickly and so avoid potential waste.


Buy non-perishables in bulk; this reduces cost and packaging and cuts down the amount of material you have to get rid of or recycle. Keep your work areas clean. If things are well organised, visible, labelled clearly and accessible, you and your staff will know where everything is and use products more efficiently. This encourages staff to use only the resources they really need. Items that only get used once and then thrown away mean you have to get rid of more rubbish. Use refillable sugar dispensers, condiment dispensers, reusable cutlery, reusable tableware and food storage containers.


Buy products with reusable packaging. When suppliers suggest moving away from reusable packaging, remind them that you are landed with extra disposal costs. Speak to your meat and fish supplier about using reusable plastic tubs instead of disposable polystyrene and cardboard packaging.
Filter and reuse cooking oil before you get rid of it. The useful life of oil can be prolonged by ensuring oil (for example, in deep fryers) is only heated when necessary for cooking.


Recycling is a great way to reduce waste and help save the environment, but it’s also an easy way to make money. One man’s trash is another man’s cash, and whilst as a café owner you may not get rich from recycling, I’m sure most people would enjoy a few extra dollars and a clean conscience knowing that they are making a difference and contributing to a sustainable future.

It’s easier than ever before to recycle. You can recycle everything from coffee grounds, which can be composted, to cooking oils, which can be converted into products like biofuels. Paper, cardboard and plastic can all be recycled, and it could be cheaper organising the pickup of recycling bins, rather than paying for the collection of general waste bins where the content goes to landfill.

Collect all used cooking oils and fats in an oil bin for re-processing. It is illegal to dispose of these down any drains and you may be able to get money for good quality oil. Ask your recycling contractors for help with providing recycling information, signs and the latest systems.

Make sure your staff, contractors and cleaners follow your recycling program and sort and put the material in the correct bin. If you are located in a shopping complex, collaborate with your neighbours and together ask the centre’s management about setting up a recycling system and providing extra places where recycled material can be collected inside and outside the building. Share recycling bins or containers with another business.

Consider donating unused food to a suitable charity that supplies to people in need in the community. Then sort out what can be recycled.

To truly engage in a recycling mindset, it’s imperative that you purchase products with recycled content, such as toilet paper, napkins and packaging. This creates more demand for recycled materials and creates a self-sustaining feedback loop.

Your sustainable waste policies could save you money, help attract or retain customers and preserve the environment. Promote your business’ recycling actions and encourage others to do the same. For example, publish your environmental policy and objectives on the menu.

Smart companies are those who will be the most creative and pragmatic in the future about reducing and reusing and recycling waste. They will be the winners and remain profitable, viable businesses.