Ithaca eateries practice sustainabile food disposal
?Last week Yena Seo, an Ithaca College freshman, was exploring downtown Ithaca. Hoping to get a taste of Ithaca’s open streets, p?shops and ethnic cuisines, Seo wandered down Aurora Street. Cruising by all the local restaurants, she stumbled upon several dumpsters with its contents of paper bags, soda cans and beans spilling out the sides.
Millions of dumpsters all over America resemble a similar trend: day-old chicken soaking in rancid gravy, blueberry yogurt that expired two days prior and the extra carrots that didn’t make it into the stew—all wasted food, never to be used again.
According to a USDA study, 31 percent of food is wasted each year in America. In 2010, 430 billion pounds of food were available to Americans and 133 billion pounds of that were thrown away. While American citizens are huge contributors to food waste, the biggest culprits are restaurants.
In a year, a single restaurant in the United States can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste, according to the Green Restaurant Association. Many restaurants are forced to discard unused food to abide by many health and nutrition laws.
To maintain freshness, restaurants are constantly importing new food every day, while throwing out any-
thing leftover or uncooked. Food can be up to half of a restaurant’s waste stream, with larger chains often having less waste because they use more prepackaged foods, according to a University of Arizona study. Another study from the university estimated the total food loss per day was 49,296,540 pounds for full service restaurants and 85,063,390 pounds for fast food restaurants.
Prevention and reduction of food waste is key, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. There are many economic and environmental benefits from reducing the amount of food thrown away or even created in the first place.
A program created by the San Francisco’s Solid Waste Management Program devised several restaurant waste reduction tips pertaining to the stages of purchasing merchandise, product handling and storage, food preparation and production, and post service. Tips include cleaning friers and filters daily, using containers that are already serving sizes and buying coffee beans to grind on site.
Leaving leftover pasta for the rats isn’t the only restaurant food disposal option. More sustainable alternatives include composting and
donating to local farms or food shelters. Laura Branca, a representative of Moosewood, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, said Moosewood recycles and composts with Cayuga Compost. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle isn’t just a catchy slogan on bumper stickers. Recycling and reusing is a very easy alternative to the dumpster destination.
Collegetown Bagels uses three waste management options: composting, recycling and sending some waste to the landfill. Marketing director Katherine Banko said waste reduction and being eco-friendly are big priorities. All the cups and silverware are compostable at Collegetown Bagels. Collegetown Bagels also owns Ithaca Bakery, which also practices sustainable food disposal.
The Ithaca Bakery composts food scraps at the Cayuga Compost. Reusable and compostable cutlery and plates are available to customers as well.
“In addition to being a good community citizen, recycling certainly saves us money,” Ramsey Brous, owner of Ithaca Bakery said. “On a different note, composting costs much more than landfilling at present, but we choose to do it anyway.”
Brous also said minimizing food waste is a very important priority for Ithaca Bakery. “This is the key to the very slim profit margin that food businesses strive for,” Brous said.
Elena Haskins is a freshman film, photography & visual art who enjoys hanging out behind local restaurants. Email her at email@example.com.