Implementing sustainable business practices is a top priority for many restaurateurs. Operators who recycle waste products at their establishments know it not only attracts and engages the interest of customers, but also offers potential economic benefits and is good for the environment, too.

So, the National Restaurant Association, with support from Georgia-Pacific Professional, recently conducted research to identify current recycling practices of restaurants. The survey also looked at consumer demands and perceptions as they relate to restaurants’ recycling practices.

“Georgia-Pacific Professional’s commitment to supporting our Sustainability & Social Responsibility imperative is instrumental in advancing the goals of the National Restaurant Association and the industry at large,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “We are thrilled to have Georgia-Pacific Professional’s participation and are honored to have their support in this initiative.”

The findings provide a clear, present-day view of recycling best practices in the restaurant industry. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

  • 65% of restaurants surveyed have recycling programs in place. Of them:
    • 85% recycle paper and cardboard
    • 70% recycle aluminum and metal cans
    • 68% recycle plastic
    • 61% recycle glass
  • 72% of restaurants surveyed purchase products made of recycled materials:
    • 73% said the cost of doing business remained the same
The study also looked at customer expectations and response:
  • 60% prefer to eat at restaurants with recycling programs
  • 51% are willing to pay more at restaurants that recycle
  • 85% are willing to sort their own recyclables – glass, paper and plastic – into bins at quick-service restaurants
While the survey shows that the majority of restaurants are recycling, the industry still has a way to go. Of the restaurant operators who said they currently do not have a recycling program in their business, only 17 percent said they plan to start one in the next year.

We hope that the findings of this survey can better equip these restaurant owners – and those who already have programs in place – meet the expectations of customers, further enhance their sustainability efforts and be true to their bottom lines.

Download the full report at

Recycling for All the Right Returns