C: Composting in Hotels and Restaurants

Working in a pub with an overflowing bin room, in which the attempt to separate recyclable paper and regular garbage seems to have largely failed and with bottle bins holding far more than just plastic and glass, I am a direct witness of relatively large-scale wastage. I do acknowledge that some recycling attempts are made, however, the concept of organic waste is largely unconsidered, which has been a theme across my research and daily observations to this point.

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Our bins don’t always look this pretty! 

In considering my lived experience, I conducted further research into what institutions and organisation and managing organic waste effectively. One organisation whose work I was particularly taken by was FERN (Food Establishments Recycling Nutrients). I first came across this organisation when reading an article about World Food Day, in which FERN hosted a brunch at Le Gabriel Hotel in Beirut, where their attendees were invited to dine on the leftovers from the breakfast buffet.


This is a Lebanese NGO, which began in 2012. Essentially the group will come into a restaurant or hotel, conduct a waste analysis, train the staff and collect any organic waste. Their goal in helping restaurants and hotels to create zero waste is to close the loop in the agricultural cycle.

When FERN removes the organic waste from Lebanon’s restaurants and hotels it is taken for composting. The idea that composting has the biggest potential in removing materials from the waste stream was supported by Bob Langert, the Director of Environmental Affairs at McDonald’s Corporation (1992).  This statement was made following a trial in which 10 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK separated organic material, which was then transported to a composting facility (Goldstein,1992). This was a largely successful campaign and a similar trial is currently being undertaken at the Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta North McDonalds restaurants (McDonalds 2016).

As shown by FERN and McDonalds, many hotels and restaurants are willingly embracing these environmental initiatives. This was further supported in a research journal, which interviewed a range of hotels in Cape Town, South Africa. These respondents also indicated that government support would encourage the long-term success of waste management initiatives (Wyngaard & Lange, 2013). The study also underscored the importance of education and training, not only must one learn how to recycle organic matter but they must understand its importance and the long-term benefits. 

Not only does effective organic waste management have a positive effect on the environment but also it begins to answer bigger problems including world hunger. According to a report published by the McKinsey Group, in the developing world, two thirds of harvested food is thrown away. The distribution of food globally is completely warped. With initiatives to recycle natural waste, this may engender more significant consideration of our wastage and begin to consider alternative ways to prevent such vast wastage.


This info graphic designed by Michelle Khaill posted on FERN’s website provides tips for reducing waste at home.



Alabaster, Olivia. 2012, ‘Leftovers to compost: Hotels eliminate waste’, Tribune Business News (Washington), 17 Oct 2012. 

Goldstein, Nora. 1992, ‘Restaurants Evaluate Composting Option’, BioCycle, vol. 33 no.10 pp.34-37. 

Kennett, Stephen. 2013, ‘In a country where composting isn’t common, social enterprise FERN as come up with a solution’, 2 Degrees, viewed 11 June 2016 <https://www.2degreesnetwork.com/groups/2degrees-community/resources/country-where-composting-isnt-common-social-enterprise-fern-has-come-up-with-solution/>

McDonalds 2016, Macca’s & the Environment, viewed 11 June 2016 <https://mcdonalds.com.au/learn/responsibility/maccas-and-the-environment/initiatives-and-trials>

Wyngaard, A. & Lange R. 2013, ‘The effectiveness of implementing eco initiatives to recycle water and food waste in selected Cape Town hotels’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, vol. 34, pp. 309-316.


One thought on “C: Composting in Hotels and Restaurants”

  1. FERN sounds like a really interesting company, doing great work. I wonder if we have any companies like this in Australia. A found this company in Boston, USA that looks at taking away companies organics to turn them into compost, similar line of work. http://www.owaste.com/. An idea would be with events and functions at UTS could we look into doing a similar thing, like the Bluebird Brekkie.


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