One of the subtle, but more effective changes we made in our transition to Zero Waste was re-assessing how we were sorting waste behind the bar.
By adjusting the location and contents of each of the bins behind the bar, we were able to improve efficiency, provide better, faster customer service and create less contaminated waste-streams.
What looks like a million bins to sort different types of waste was actually a strategic plan to increase efficiency, smooth the flow of traffic behind our tiny bar space, and create cleaner waste streams.
Recycling when ready:
In the past, we had an issue with milk cartons not being emptied, flattened, and rinsed before going into our recycling. This was because baristas needed to move quickly from drink to drink and felt they didn't have time to process milk containers properly. So what's the problem with just tossing milk into the recycling? The unflattened cartons made large loads of recyclables and excess milk often spilled onto paper and cardboard, contaminating the entire load.
With a little creativity, we were able to tackle both of these problems and create a system that led to faster customer service AND better recycling. It's incredibly easy for other cafes to do the same!
Right below the espresso machine we added a new bin-- a place to quickly toss milk cartons once they are emptied. Now instead of having to cross several steps away from the espresso machine during a big rush of drinks, baristas can practically drop an empty milk carton at their feet and move on to the next drink.
This temporary spot for milk cartons means that when baristas are moving quickly, they don't have to worry about rinsing and flattening milk cartons in the moment. Instead, we can deal with them once things slow down a bit.
Once a rush is over and we have some down time, we can properly empty the last drops of milk, rinse the carton, and fold it flat and place it in with the rest of the recyclables. Other cafes can implement the same change to reduce the volume of recycling they create, and especially the amount of recycling that gets contaminated.
Close & Convenient Composting
It only makes sense to have the place where stuff goes close to the place where stuff is created. We split our compost into two bins-- one that sits directly under the espresso grinder to catch all of our grounds and one that is next to our food prep area. These are the two locations where we are creating compostable waste. By keeping the espresso grounds separate from the rest of the compost, we can save them for gradneners or to use for a very special and secret project we’ve been working on ;)
By separating out these bins, we’ve also cleaned up the flow of traffic behind the bar. Now baristas dont have to cross in front of the person making coffee just to toast out some food crumbs or paper towels. Since espresso grounds just fall into the compost bin by the grinder, it also doesn’t require any extra sorting or labor to have two bins instead of one.
Landfill as the Last Resort:
Since we are producing an incredibly tiny amount of trash behind the bar, we figured we might as well get the landfill bin as far out of the way as possible. Our landfill bin is in the back room and is the only bin with a lid on it, so it has to be a very intentional decision to send something to the landfill. This bin is emptied just once a week and mostly contains stickers, chip bags, and candy wrappers.
We also implemented plastic film recycling Behind the bar to make sure more of our waste stream was getting put to its maximum use.