Author: Charles Hope-Dunbar, Sustainable Advantage

Busy, award-winning restaurant Petersham Nurseries was desperate to improve its recycling record. A number of what it thought insurmountable hurdles were preventing it from making the necessary changes. Charles Hope-Dunbar of Sustainable Advantage describes how they collaborated to overcome those hurdles and save more than £20,000 a year.

Our first step was to visit Petersham Nurseries to review their existing waste provision, understand the setup and requirements see how the service could be altered to improve both the costs and recycling percentages.

Petersham Nurseries’ Richmond location is a modern boutique style garden centre with a popular café and fine-dining restaurant. It sits in a residential area, so noise pollution from the waste vehicles needed to be considered. The access route to the site is a narrow lane, too narrow for a standard waste collection vehicle. Waste streams in place were: general waste; packaging and card; dry mixed recycling; green waste; food; glass and some ad hoc.

The General Manager was unhappy with the current cost of waste services and wanted to improve the proportion of their waste they were recycling.

We reviewed the waste setup – which bin types are in place, their capacity and the frequency of their collection versus the needs given the actual waste being produced and designed the optimum setup.

Sustainable Advantage work with a network of over 200 zero-to-landfill approved suppliers in the UK and have access to preferential rates. Appropriate suppliers were narrowed down based on location coverage, services available and cost. Our preference is to use as few suppliers as possible for any one client. We then approached a shortlist confirming they had vehicles appropriate for a location with restricted access, and that they could minimise both noise pollution and their carbon footprint by combining and coordinating collections. We found one supplier who best fit the bill and further negotiated prices.

The improvements delivered were:

· An immediate reduction in waste costs of 44%

· Reduction in the frequency of weekly collections from five to two

· An 25% increase in recycling to 55% of total waste with plans to up that further to 65%

· Monthly waste reports detailing volumes and end destination

· Introduction of an account manager for ongoing improvement recommendations

· Assistance with staff training

· Introduction of helpdesk support

Tips for restaurants wanting to follow suit:

· Review your waste requirements annually or at your contract end date – as with household bills and telecoms, switching or challenging suppliers is a good way of controlling inevitable price rises

· Look at the biggest contributors to waste in your kitchen – is this pre-consumer food waste, post-consumer food waste, or packaging?

· Try to have a clear understanding of your waste requirements or work with a waste consultant

· Make sure you’re separating waste as much as possible, into recyclable items e.g. glass paper and card and compostable food waste.

· Get your staff on board with your goals.