Friday, January 27, 2023

Restaurant food waste still a problem

VIRGINIA BEACH — Despite her efforts to reduce food waste and keep what is wasted out of the city landfill, restaurateur Laura Wood Habr of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro found that it’s often easier said than done.

Habr said a few years ago, with the help of the Virginia Aquarium, Croc’s was able to get an Environmental Protection Agency grant and start a pilot program aimed at getting restaurant food waste to a composting facility and keeping it out of the landfill.

Wednesday at the Brock Environmental Center, when locals come together to watch “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste,” Habr will serve on a panel discussion afterwards, and likely speak about her experience as a restaurant owner and her attempts to establish a local program for restaurants.

Brock Education Center
Brock Education Center, 3663 Marlin Bay Dr. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Lynnhaven River Now)

“The hauling fees make it unsustainable for now,” Habr said, adding that the nearest facility taking food waste is some 70 miles away in Waverly.

There’s a formula for calculating the cost of hauling food waste, which involves not only distance but also weight.

“Food waste is the heaviest of everything collected,” she said. “So for now it goes into the Dumpster and then to the landfill.”

Restaurant pilot program food waste
Slide from a presentation about the food waste pilot program (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy Laura Habr)

Once in the landfill food waste not only takes up space but also creates methane gas as it breaks down, further contributing to climate change.

A regional facility serving Hampton Roads would be ideal, Habr said.

In 2014 the Food Waste Reduction Alliance did a study and found that only 14.3-percent of restaurant food waste was recycled. The other 84-percent went, most likely, into landfills across the country.

Restaurants in the United States are estimated to generate 571,000 tons of waste per year.

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Habr said Croc’s was the first “green restaurant” in the state and that’s due simply to good business practices most smaller businesses should have very little food waste. Croc’s also holds a “Green Drinks Happy Hour” on the third Thursday of each month where green issues are discussed.

Food waste presentation slide
Another slide from the presentation about the food waste pilot program (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Laura Habr)

Wednesday’s event begins at 6:30 p.m., at 3663 Marlin Bay Drive.

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