I feel confident in saying that we are probably one of the only restaurants in existence that was faced with the predicament of producing too little trash for our 2 “slim jim” trash cans. Every night during our one trash run of the day, we would try to combine our 2 small kitchen trash cans, our 2 bathroom trash cans and the one by the register and still feel terrible that we were throwing away a full size trash bag hardly 1/3 of the way full. Daily, we felt like our trash bag our biggest contributor to the landfills so we’ve decided the only logical solution was to return our 2 kitchen trash cans and replace them with 2 tiny bathroom sized trash cans for 100% of our kitchen waste that doesn’t feed the chickens or into the compost pile. We are also hoping to most often line the trash cans with pre-used paper grocery bags that someone brings us fruit in, so we can also avoid a plastic bag.
I am not typically the person taking the trash to the dumpster we share with maybe 10 other tenants in the same building, but I happened to run the trash a few nights ago at the same time as an employee for one of our neighbor restaurants was taking theirs out as well. She had a huge trash can like one of the ones that the trash truck comes and picks up from your house overflowing with bags and had 2 more loaded bags stacked on top as she rolled it to the dumpster at the same time as me. As we converged at the dumpster, she kind of jokingly said, “forgot the bathrooms ya?” and I realized its probably unbelievable that this small bag i could have held up with two fingers is literally all of the trash we produce all day in an entire restaurant!
So how do we produce so little trash? A number of ways I guess…
For one, we take all of our food waste for our chickens to eat or if its something they don’t like, it goes straight to the compost pile. (or in the case of citrus peels, they go directly below the citrus trees because they’re not great in large quantities for compost piles because of their antibacterial properties) That accounts for about four 5-gallon buckets per day of chicken food and nutritients and nitrogen for our soil.
Also, because we buy direct from the farmers in most cases, we receive produce in boxes and we give them the boxes back to re-use over and over so they don’t have to spend money buying boxes to give to us to throw in the dumpster just to receive the same thing in a brand new box a few days later.
The last yet equally as important reason for so little trash is that buying things with little trash is actually a huge part of how we decide on what to buy. You may have noticed that we recently took tofu off the menu. It’s not that we have anything against tofu, but it was because tofu was one of our largest contributors to our trash (and yes, even though its got the little 3 triangle thingy on it, it’s still trash, no plastic is getting recycled anymore except Hi-5, so you can separate it from the trash and drive it to the “plastic recycling” container at the dump/recycling but it is not getting recycled it is going into the landfill). I couldn’t take our restaurant producing 4 little plastic boxes (holding one standard 14 oz size piece of tofu each) per day so we decided to make a change and switch to teriyaki marinated eggplant for the Bahn mi sandwich and the Vietnamese crepe roll- both of which previously had tofu. I’m currently trying to figure out how to not have to buy 2 L plastic jugs of organic olive oil as that’s another contributor of trash for us- maybe 3 bottles per week. If anyone knows of options for buying like a 55 gallon drum of olive oil, I’m in the market!
And of course, we can sleep easy at night knowing that our customers aren’t receiving ANYTHING from us that they will take home and contribute to their trash and Maui’s landfills.