Protecting Oregon's Environment
Oregon State Seal
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Land Quality 

Commercial Waste Reduction Clearinghouse

Setting Up A Program
Waste Reduction Strategies
Educate and Promote
Recognition and Funding
Success Stories
Commercial Laws and Regulations

Waste Reduction Strategies

Food Service

Waste Prevention


  • Use cloth towels for cleaning, rather than the paper equivalents.
  • Use reusable coasters (or nothing at all) instead of paper napkins when serving beverages from the bar.
  • Use reusable table linen and dinnerware.
  • Buy thinner straws to limit plastic waste.
  • Use paper carry-out containers so that they may be composted.
  • For Office Waste Prevention Tips see: General Tips

Food Preparation and Storage

  • Reuse leftover foods that have been stored at proper temperature within two days of preparation to prevent waste due to spoilage.
  • Consider buying your lettuce precut during those times of the year when the precut cost is equal to (or less than) the cost of the bulk product to cut down on employee waste during handling, washing and prepping.
  • Donate unserved food to a local food bank.
  • Rotate perishable stock at every delivery to minimize waste due to spoilage.
  • Clean coolers and freezers regularly to ensure that food has not fallen behind the shelving and spoiled.
  • Cover refrigerated foods with reusable plastic covers rather than with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Use vegetable and meat trimmings for soup stock.
  • Adjust the size of meal portions if you find that they are consistently being returned unfinished.
  • Date frozen items and use oldest first to prevent freezer burn.
  • Keep refrigeration in good running order to prevent unnecessary spoilage and reduce energy costs.
  • Use health department-approved, refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual packets.
  • Buy shelf-stable food supplies in bulk when sales volume and storage space allows.
  • Consider buying shelled eggs in bulk, if your egg usage for general cooking or baking is three or more cases per week.
  • Buy meats in bulk or in uncut form and cut to size.
  • Avoid purchasing meat boxed in non-recyclable wax-coated corrugated cardboard.
  • Check your produce deliveries carefully for rotten or damaged products, and return any substandard items.
  • Whenever possible, prepare foods to order.
  • Store raw vegetables and other perishables in reusable airtight containers to prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage.
  • Re-hydrate vegetables (e.g., celery, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, etc.) that have wilted by trimming off the very bottom part of the stalk and immersing in warm water (100o F) for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Serve beverages from a beverage gun or dispenser, buy bar mixes in concentrate form, and buy milk in 5 gallon dispenser boxes.
  • Improve purchasing and inventory management to prevent overstocking supplies that will not be used within one month, or may have limited shelf life.
  • Return strawberry and fruit baskets to the distributors or institutions which give them back to produce farmers for reuse.
  • Ask produce delivery vendor to pick up cardboard boxes for reuse.

Dishwashing and cleaning

  • Place rubber mats around bus and dish washing stations to reduce china and glass breakage.
  • Filter the fryer oil daily to extend the life of the oil; clean as needed. Use a test kit to determine when to change fryer oil.


See also: Green Conferences and Events

  • Set up an in-house recycling program and explain to your clients how to choose products that can easily be accommodated.
  • Arrange for recycling bins to be displayed prominently with clearly marked signs to encourage event attendees to participate.
  • Discuss methods to reduce waste with your clients, such as a table for collecting name tags at the end of the event that will be reusable.
  • Offer snacks, foods and condiments that can be bought in bulk without individual wrappers like fresh vegetables, fruit, bread and nuts, ketchup, mustard, etc.
  • Offer a vegetarian alternative plate to minimize the waste of meat.
  • Offer reusable plates, silverware, cloth napkins and table linens whenever possible and discuss the importance of not creating vast amounts of waste by using non-disposable items with your clients.
  • When possible, use reusable decorations like silk table arrangements and candles instead of items especially made and dated for the event. When the client is arranging for fresh flowers or other type of temporary decoration, ask them to encourage the guests or employees to take them home to enjoy before throwing them away and suggest they use potted plants that can be planted later and grown.



  • Ask your suppliers to take back shipping boxes for reuse or recycling and keep you informed about new and existing products that are packaged in ways which can reduce waste.
  • Set up a rendering service for your waste grease, fat or used cooking oil.
  • Collect food waste for use as animal feed if your area has food by-products recycling firms. If none exist, check into composting facilities.
  • Provide recycling bins in a centrally located area for your customers and employees. Create instructional signs, laminate, and hang in clear view to tell staff or patrons the exact destination of every item.
  • Avoid purchasing meat boxed in non-recyclable wax-coated corrugated cardboard.
  • Join forces with business neighbors to cooperatively haul trash and recyclables. Sharing the same trash and recycling bins and disposal costs saves everybody money and promotes cooperation.


  • Set up an in-house recycling program and explain to your clients how to choose products that can easily be accommodated.
  • Arrange for recycling bins to be displayed prominently with clearly marked signs to encourage event attendees to participate.


  • Materials that may be composted include: table scraps, food preparation wastes, egg shells, coffee filters, coffee grinds, tea bags, paper towels, napkins, individual milk cartons, flour bags, and landscape clippings.
  • Contact your local government or waste hauler to find out if there are any food collection programs in your area.

For more information visit these web sites:

  • Composting Council of Canada
  • Composting News
  • Internet Recycling and Composting Resource Page
  • Recyclers World central composting category
  • US EPA composting
[print version]

For more information about DEQ's enter Program name here call enter # here or .

For more information about DEQ's Land Quality Division call 503-229-5696 .

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

DEQ Web site privacy notice