Roughly two-thirds of the nation’s restaurateurs have recycling programs as part of their sustainability efforts, according to a new study conducted by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with Georgia-Pacific Professional.  The research, a survey of 500 restaurant operators released at the 2011 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, also shows that three out of five consumers prefer to visit restaurants that have recycling practices in place.

“Sustainability is more than a fad, it’s the new way of doing business in the restaurant industry,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA. “Our research found that a majority of consumers prefer to patronize restaurants with recycling programs, and restaurants are following suit to ensure they meet their customers’ expectations.”

Highlights of the restaurant recycling study include:

  • Sixty-five percent of restaurateurs currently have a recycling program in place, and 13 percent participate in composting programs.
  • Seventy-four percent of restaurateurs who recycle do so in the kitchen and office areas, while 43 percent have a program in the dining room and other customer-facing areas.
  • Nearly 72 percent of restaurant operators use products made from recycled materials; the most common of these items are bags, paper products and food containers.
  • Sixty percent of consumers say they prefer to visit a restaurant that recycles.
  • 85 percent of consumers say they sort recyclables in quick-service restaurants if receptacles are provided.
  • About half of consumers (51 percent) say they are willing to pay a little more for menu items at a restaurant that recycles.

The research supports the development of best practices for restaurant operators by the NRA through its Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative. The Conserve website provides free tips, tools and resources for restaurant operators to continue to develop their environmental sustainability programs, including waste reduction and recycling.

The full recycling research report can be downloaded at

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