When you think of sustainability in your restaurant, chances are you’re thinking about one of the following:
- Food waste
- Energy waste
- Single-use (disposable) waste
But have you thought about glassware waste?
That’s the question Root Down was faced with after examining the amount of glassware breakage in the restaurant. Considered just one of those typical expenses of the restaurant, Root Down tackled the issue by spending more time on employee staff training (be careful with those glasses!) and set up a regular standing order of new glasses coming in each month. But in addition to the expense of replacing glassware each month, consider it from a sustainability perspective such as: the material and energy used to create the glass or the gasoline emissions created from the delivery trucks. Glass still makes up around 5% of waste found in landfills, and to make matters worse, many wine and other drinking glasses are unsuitable to recycle in local municipalities due to the additives found in that glassware, posing a threat to equipment in glass recycling plants.
Creating and buying new glasses isn’t eco-friendly, but it’s just part of being in the industry, right?
But Root Down is not your typical restaurant. Like its sister restaurants (Linger, Root Down DIA and Ophelia’s), Root Down is known for responsible grown and sourced food since its inception in 2008. Between their wind-powered buildings, 4,000 square-foot gardens (which supply fresh veggies to each of their restaurants) or upcycled restaurant space (like mortuary turned restaurant hotspot), Root Down belongs to the Edible Beats group which prides itself on sustainable practices. So when they started to track the exact number of glassware breakages they had weekly, the numbers were a bit alarming (and embarrassing). How could a restaurant group who prided themselves on sustainability be so wasteful in their glassware?
Turns out, not all glassware is created the same. Despite taking extra care when polishing glasses or storing them on shelves, Root Down still experienced a significant amount of breakage. That’s because their current glassware program consisted of glasses made of annealed glass and featured only with a fully tempered rim (but how many glasses experience blunt force just at the rim?).
What is fully tempered glass?
Fully tempered or “toughed glass” is a type of safety glass that is created through a series of thermal processes that increases its strength compared to normal (annealed) glass. This process also ensures that when the glass does break, it will crumble into small, granular chunks versus splintering into jagged shards. Used commonly in passenger vehicle windows, shower doors, and more, fully tempered glass makes for a stronger and more reliable glass.
When Root Down made the switch from annealed glass to fully tempered glass (like this tumbler from Cardinal), the results were astounding. Breakages were soon a thing of the past, not only saving the restaurant on the cost of new glassware, but more importantly, ensuring that their glassware program was aligned with their sustainability efforts. Waste exists as many forms in your restaurant; sourcing sustainably isn’t limited to the ingredients you use, but also to the items on your tabletop. Take care when selecting glassware, plates, and other accessories to in the restaurant—you’d be surprised where additional waste unexpectedly hampers your eco-friendly efforts and hurts your bottom line.