As we have shown in our contribution on drafting sustainable menus, you can easily influence the environmental sustainability of your dishes. However, if you are heading towards a sustainable gastronomy business, you should also focus on waste. By reducing the overall amount of waste that you generate, and in particular your share of non-recyclable waste, you can save money and help keep the environment clean.

Avoid plastic to the greatest extent possible and reasonable
Plastic pollution has gained a lot of attention lately. Pictures of plastic islands in the sea and polluted beaches have boosted the awareness that our comfort has a price tag. The latest research, which discovered microplastic in the Arctic, suggests that tiny pieces of plastic have found their way into the atmosphere and that we might even be breathing them in. Meanwhile, legislation is increasingly tackling this problem. For instance, the EU will be banning many disposable plastic articles.

However, plastic has great advantages as a packing material, as it is very lightweight, flexible and tear-proof. In this vein, it definitely has some merits in gastronomy when it comes to the hygienic treatment of food.

So, how can we efficiently reduce the use of plastic in gastronomy? The answer is quite simple. We must determine the circumstances in which it can be easily replaced by something that is more sustainable. However, we should be aware that not every substitute is, indeed, better for our environment. For instance, bamboo cups have been doing big business for years and are regarded as a promising alternative to disposable cups. However, most of these bamboo products, which seem environmentally friendly at first sight, have not proven their worth. They are hard to recycle and some of them even release harmful substances. This means that not all bamboo products are sustainable, per se.

Reduce the amount of waste
This example indicates that you should think twice about whether and how to replace plastic in your business to become more sustainable. Not only can bamboo, wood, glass and other natural materials be good choices from an environmental point of view, but they can also convey the sense that your creations are exclusive and high-class. Most cocktails would benefit from the elimination of plastic straws and their replacement with, so to say, fancier stuff.

Conversely, at least in some cases, plastic itself might be the best alternative to plastic. Admittedly, that sounds irritating at first. However, to improve your sustainability, in some cases, you can simply replace disposable products with reusable ones. Of course, the act of cleaning them does consume water and energy, but over the lifecycle of a reusable cup, for instance, this option might still be favourable.

Ultimately, running a sustainable business does not mean that you must completely ban plastic; rather, you should assess where you use it. In this context, not only is sustainability important for our future but it can also contribute to your success. Use it as a selling point and explain your decisions to your guests – for instance, on your menu. Certainly, they will honour your efforts and be willing to pay more for your services so that they can maintain a good ecological conscience. In fact, sustainability can even give you a competitive edge.