Waste Prevention

Reduce Packaging Waste
Reduce General Waste
Reduce Office Waste
Restaurant/Food Service
Waste Prevention Worksheet
Computer Equipment
Reuse Organizations
Household Hazardous Waste
Food Waste Reduction

More Resources - ReFED Food Waste Reduction Guides

The best way to avoid problems of dealing with excessive waste is to avoid producing it in the first place. Ways to "use less" and "use it again" will save money for your business, both in purchasing and in disposal costs.

Although waste prevention is a relatively new area, experts predict that its potential for reducing waste may be greater than recycling.

Click the topics for some ideas to get you started. To expand on them, we recommend you establish a Waste Prevention Team. Your employees and managers are best positioned to come up with creative ideas for cutting waste at its source.

The team should start with the waste audit to determine the types and quantities of trash being generated. Then they can identify opportunities for waste prevention and establish a baseline for measuring results. The waste audit (and a check into their own waste cans) will arm the team with the knowledge they need to create ideas for less trash.

Use the team to educate all your employees. Also, get them involved in formulating and implementing waste prevention ideas. Rewarding them regularly for their ideas and efforts will give them all the more reason to sustain and improve it.

Reduce Packaging Waste

  • Buy in bulk.
  • Ask suppliers to minimize packaging.
  • Request orders be shipped in returnable packaging.
  • Reuse incoming packaging (bags, boxes, peanuts) to package goods for your customers.
  • Use newspaper and shredded paper from offices for packing material.
  • Return, reuse, repair wood pallets.

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Reduce General Waste

  • Use washable, reusable plates, cups, utensils.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Buy equipment with extended warranties.
  • Repair instead of replacing.
  • Buy remanufactured equipment.
  • Donate obsolete or unwanted equipment to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other charity or non-profit organizations.
For example:
  • A company receiving large rolls of paper wrapped in substantial amounts of plastic found a plastic bag manufacturer interested in the wrapping.
  • A ceramics packaging firm purchases the paper left over from a newspaper printing process.

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Reduce Office Waste

Ideas that save paper:
  • Post office announcements in central locations.
  • Share and circulate documents.
  • Set up central filing systems.
  • Reformat faxes to omit cover sheets.
  • Edit on the computer before printing.
  • Store files on computer disks, rather than printing a hard copy.
  • Use small pieces of paper for short memos.
  • Single space documents, where possible.
  • Set margins narrower for drafts.
  • Change margins to avoid pages with little text.
  • Use smaller typeface.
  • Screen your mailing lists to avoid duplication.
  • Print rough drafts and informal memos on the unused side of paper that would otherwise be thrown out.
  • Use two-way envelopes for billing purposes.
  • Use narrow-lined pads.
  • Reuse draft and computer paper for notes and scrap paper.
  • Use generic, rather than personalized, stationery (more people can use it, and it never gets outdated)
Equipment that reduces waste:
  • Laser printers that print on both sides of a page.
  • Photocopiers that print on both sides of a page.
  • Computer fax software that allows you to fax documents without first printing it out.
  • Plain paper fax machines.
  • Waste-reducing supplies:
  • Refill laser cartridges and re-ink typewriter ribbons.
  • Reuse envelopes for interoffice mail.
  • Refillable tape dispensers.
  • Electronic calendars.

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  • Switch to longer lasting, more energy efficient light bulbs (compact fluorescent bulbs).
  • Purchase cleaning products with nontoxic contents in large reusable containers.
  • Use roll towels instead of C-fold towels (people tend to use less paper with a roll towel system).
  • Install reusable air filters in your building’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
  • Compost/mulch yard waste and/or simply leave grass clippings on the lawns.
  • Relocate, replant trees and shrubs.

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  • Ask your customers if they need a bag - don’t automatically give them one.
  • Set out incoming bags and boxes as containers for your customers to use.
  • Offer a discount to customers who bring their own shopping bags.
  • Encourage your suppliers and request that they consider the feasibility of reducing the amount of packaging they use.

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Use reusable shipping pallets/containers for products shipped to frequent customers. Pick them up next time you make a delivery.

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  • Donate to community charities: soap, toilet tissue, linen and hangers that are no longer suitable for guest use.
  • Use liquid soap and shampoo dispensers in guest rooms.
  • Reduce the number of magazine copies in guest rooms.
  • Provide daily newspapers to guests on request only.
  • Offer outdated equipment, drapes, furniture and carpeting for resale, or donate to charities.
  • Remake torn or worn linens into other smaller usable items (e.g., sheets into pillowcases).

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Restaurant/Food Service

These ideas originate from many tried and true programs dealing with reducing restaurant operating costs. In many instances, your restaurant may already use one or more of these ideas.

Purchasing Ideas
  • Ask that your purveyor's representatives keep you informed of new and existing products with minimal packaging.
  • Ask your purveyor to take back the shipping boxes for reuse or recycling.
  • If you serve carbonated beverages from a beverage gun or dispenser (i.e., post-mix), ask for (if space permits) reusable syrup canisters, rather than the bag-in-the-box alternative.
  • Buy and use dispenser beverages (e.g., juice, iced tea, hot chocolate) in concentrate or bulk form.
  • Similarly, buy milk in the 5-gal. dispenser box, rather than the half-gallon carton.
  • Buy bar mixes in concentrate form, reconstitute and portion them into reusable serving containers, rather than using ready-to-use mix.
  • Use condiment bottles and refill them from condiments purchased in bulk containers.
  • Use health department-approved, refillable condiment dispensers whenever possible (e.g., cream for coffee, ketchup, etc.) instead of individual packets.
  • Consider buying pickles, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc., in containers other than the hard plastic pails and buckets. Almost all are available in other containers, including plastic-lined cardboard, cry-o-vac, or foil pouches. Alternatively, try returning the containers to the manufacturer.
  • Consider buying eggs shelled in bulk if your egg usage for general cooking is 3 or more cases per week. Not only will it increase your yield (up to 30% of the egg white stays with the shell when raw eggs are shelled manually), but will eliminate broken eggs in the cooler and having to dispose of the shells and boxes.
  • Buy shelf-stable food supplies in bulk or concentrate whenever sales volumes and storage space justify it. This minimizes unnecessary packaging and can cost less on a per unit basis, too.
  • Purchase fewer cleaning products. Buy multi-purpose cleaners that can be used for all types of surfaces, rather than buying different cleaners. Consider buying cleaning agents that are either the least toxic or non-toxic in nature.
  • Serve straws from health department-approved dispensers, rather than offering them pre-wrapped. At the same time, consider purchasing straws with a smaller hole size or thickness, rather than the ones you are currently using.
  • Use reusable coasters (or nothing at all), instead of paper napkins when serving beverages from the bar.
  • Use roll-type paper towels in your restrooms and at hand sinks, instead of pre-cut towels. Better yet, consider using hot-air hand dryers or cloth roll dispensers.
Product Handling & Storage
  • Refuse to accept damaged produce. Check your produce deliveries carefully for rotten or damaged products.
  • Clean coolers and freezers (reach-ins and walk-ins) regularly. Ensure that food has not fallen behind the shelves and spoiled.
  • Watch your storage practices. Store raw vegetables and other perishables in reusable airtight containers to prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage. Also store produce (especially leafy vegetables) as far away from the condenser unit as possible to prevent freezing.
  • Store and/or handle unwrapped paper supplies (e.g., drink cups, napkins, bags) carefully to prevent the products from inadvertently falling onto the floor.
  • Donate unused food to an area food bank.
  • Package your waste well. Consider using plastic trash liners made of recycled HDPE (plastics labeled #2), instead of ones made of LDPE or LLDPE. They contain less raw materials, work equally well (or better) for most uses, and generally cost less. Look for recycled bags with post-consumer content.
Food Preparation and Storage
  • Evaluate and adjust the size of your meal portions, if you find they are consistently being returned unfinished.
  • Pre-cool steam table hot foods (in an ice bath) before placing them in the cooler. Similarly, always place hot foods into clean, shallow containers before storing in the cooler. This helps prevent premature spoilage and keeps your cooler from working overtime to keep things properly refrigerated.
Production and Service Areas
  • Develop and maintain a monthly cleaning and maintenance program for all your equipment.
  • Keep refrigeration in good running order to prevent unnecessary spoilage resulting from broken equipment. This also extends the life of the compressors and reduces energy costs as well.
  • Check the syrup-to-water (Brix) calibrator on your beverage dispenser at least twice a week. Similarly, clean the heads and dispenser tips on all of your beverage machines daily. This helps ensure consistent beverage production quality and quantity.
  • Use a test kit supplied by your grocery distributor (rather than eyeballing it) to determine whether to change your fryer oil.
  • Have employees use permanent-ware mugs or cups for their drinks.
  • Place rubber mats around bus and dishwashing stations to further reduce china and glass breakage. This also minimizes injury resulting from slippage.
  • Distribute condiments and napkins from behind the counter, instead of offering them self-serve. Train your staff to offer a predetermined quantity for each customer.
  • Use serving containers in sizes that meet the packaging needs of your menu items, without having excess packaging material.
  • Minimize the use of unnecessary extra packaging (e.g., double wrapping, double bagging, etc.) of take-out foods. Establish packaging standards for every menu item and let your staff know that it's important to follow them. Remember, every extra bag or piece of wrap that they use is money out of your pocket and more garbage in the dumpster.

Ideas excerpted from "Food For Thought: San Francisco Restaurants' Guide to Waste Reduction and Recycling," City and County of San Francisco Recycling Program, 1992.


See tips for preventing household hazardous waste.

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Waste Prevention Worksheet

Circulate a worksheet based on the sample below among your employees or waste prevention team to solicit ideas for reducing everyday waste. Once it has been completed, each option can be evaluated for economic feasibility. In the right-hand column labeled "Potential Savings," you can factor in savings from lower disposal costs (less waste generates less need to remove it) and lower purchasing levels (reducing consumption by reusing items, such as paper, or by substituting disposable items for comparable non-disposable items, such as mugs for styrofoam cups).

Sample Format:
Waste Prevention Options

    List Options            Describe Option            Potential Savings




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© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.