Darden Restaurants Lead the Effort in Recycling Organic Food Waste

darden-sustainabilityWhen visiting a Longhorn Steakhouse or Capital Grille for a night out on the town, the focus of the night typically revolves around whether you should choose the rib-eye or the filet and not what the restaurants recycling efforts are. However, for the parent company of those two restaurants, Darden Restaurants, the recycling efforts of all of it’s materials for the restaurants it supports is very much a big deal as Orlando’s only Fortune 500 company. From food donation to organic food waste, Darden is aiming to one day send zero waste to landfills.

Darden Waste Stream

Darden Restaurants is the parent company of some of the best well-known restaurants in the World including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Season’s 52, Bahama Breeze, Yard House, and Eddie V’s. Over the last several years, Darden has been making strides to limit the amount of waste that they annually send to landfills. Some of the ways that they avoid sending waste is by donating food that is about to expire by cooking it and then freezing it, recycling grease, cardboard, and other containers used within the restaurant such as cleaning bottles and canned items.

Organic Food Waste Recycling

Whereas many of Darden’s restaurants are making great strides in their recycling efforts in these particular areas, three of Darden’s restaurants in the four-corners area of Orlando are experimenting with a brand-new type of recycling – food waste, as-in the leftovers that you leave on your plate that don’t make it home in a to-go bag. While not a very pretty picture to think about while you are dining at one of the restaurants, this is definitely a great initiative on Darden’s part and is also very forward-thinking when it comes to conservation and where things are headed with recycling.

Food Waste as Fuel

When we first heard about Darden’s use of organic food waste as a recycling material that can be used as a bio-gas, the introduction of the Back to the Future Part 2 movie came to mind when Doc fills up his time machine with Marty’s garbage as fuel that can be seen in the clip below:

Fast-forward to their future and our present day, the organic kind of waste can be turned into fuel by a company that Darden is partnering up with called Organic Matters, Inc that can turn food scraps into energy by processing it in different ways. From an economic standpoint, restaurants such as Darden can earn some money back by having the organic material dehydrated and turned into animal feed that can then be sold. However, to make this all possible, other businesses need to participate in the process to have the pickup of the organic waste across several businesses bring the economies of scale down. One or two restaurants spread out across the city make the recycling of organic waste very difficult to work from a profitability standpoint but if a cluster of competing restaurants and hotels partnered on the recycling of organic waste, then it would be a win-win for everyone. This is where Darden currently stands with only 1% of their restaurants recycling organic waste.

Darden Interview

Check out our interview in the video below at the 4:25 mark with Brandon Tidwell, Manager of Sustainability for Darden Restaurants, where he discusses how the wait staff at the LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, and Olive Garden on W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee are recycling the organic waste of their guest into yellow bins that are then recycled into animal feed by Organic Matters, Inc:

Again, this is all a part of Darden’s goal of eventually sending zero amounts of waste to landfills someday. You can find out more about Darden’s efforts at Darden.com/sustainability and by watching the brief video below: