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From the Small Actions Directory

Food Service Disposables
Small Action Category: Environmental Impact | Waste Reduction

Consider how you provide food service disposables to minimize unnecessary waste – only some customers may want or need them! 

What are food service disposables?

Food service disposables are single-use items and products provided by the food and beverage for serving and consuming food. They include utensils, dishes, napkins, straws, cups, containers, stirrers, picks, and more. Frequently, these disposables are automatically provided to every customer, regardless of their actual requirement or request. Even in cases where the items are recyclable or compostable, providing more things than necessary contributes to unnecessary waste.

How is changing how you provide food service disposables a socially responsible action?

By not automatically providing disposables, you will help reduce unnecessary waste and minimize the environmental impact of the production and disposal of disposable food service items. Even environmentally friendly products may not be disposed of properly by all customers.

This optional action may even be required depending on where you operate. For example, cities including Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Chicago have passed ordinances that require customers to request disposable products before they are given.

How does changing how you provide disposables help your business?

Changing when and how you provide disposable products can help your business by:

  • Increasing Brand Awareness: Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices can enhance your brand's image and attract environmentally friendly customers.
  • Enhance Customer Relationships Asking customers for their preferences demonstrates your commitment to decreasing waste while valuing their choices, leading to more positive customer experiences. 
  • Enhance Employee Relationships: Engaging employees in environmentally responsible practices can boost morale and improve how they think about the business, improving retention and attracting socially conscious employees. 
  • Improve Financial Performance – No automatically handing out disposables can save costs by minimizing unnecessary expenses on these items.

How can you get started?

The following tips will help you start considering [action]. For more help, check out the articles, resources, and businesses listed below. 

  1. Review Your Current Practices: Review your current process for providing food service disposables to customers and identify areas where changes can be made.
  2. Update Order Forms: If you accept online orders, modify your order forms to include a checkbox or option for customers to indicate whether they want disposable items.
  3. Train Your Staff: Make sure your employees are aware of the new policy and understand the importance of asking customers about their preferences.
  4. Monitor and Adjust: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of this change and gather feedback from customers and employees to improve.

*And remember… don't just “do” an action. Make that action effective. Learn more about what it means to be effective in our related blog post

Interested in Learning More?

Articles about the action:

Examples of new laws requiring customers to ask:

About Small Actions

Small Actions are steps that you can take to do more social good through your Small Business.

They are organized into 4 categories as part of the Small Actions Framework, a unique approach to Small Business Social Responsibility.

A complete list of the categories, and subcategories, is maintained as a blog on this site.

About Small Actions Greater Good

Small Actions Greater Good provides education, resources, and training to make it easier for Small Businesses Owners to do more effective social good that benefits their business, makes them proud of their efforts, and inspires others (also known as Small Business Social Responsibility).

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