Zero Waste mission (im)possible for my hospitality Business/Shop

Zero Waste mission (im)possible for my hospitality Business/Shop

The zero-waste movement is growing strongly. More and more hospitality businesses are committing to zero waste to meet a growing demand from consumers. This is also in line with increasingly stringent regulations for waste prevention. Focus on seven practical tips to move toward zero waste in the hospitality sector.


The practices observed have led to the identification of several concrete options available to many businesses. These virtuous practices include the following:

  • The first and easiest step is to encourage customers to bring their own containers when they come to shop or buy take-away dishes, cheeses or meats. Place a “containers welcome” sticker at the entrance to your business and on your web and paper marketing tools. Contact Zero Waste Belgium via to join and obtain the sticker.
  • The next step consists in selling or using reusable containers suited to the different types of products you sell. The customer can bring them with them next time they visit (customers clean their own containers). You can offer a discount on their purchases to encourage them to sign up for this method.
  • To further transmit the zero-waste approach to your customers, you can also implement a return system for the containers you sell. The approach requires investing in an industrial dishwasher and hiring staff to clean the containers in compliance with AFSCA standards. You can also subcontract the cleaning outside of your establishment. Note, however, that this will involve more extensive transport logistics and, therefore, additional costs.
  • For even greater success, you can build partnerships with other local hospitality businesses to pool container purchases and allow customers to use them in several different establishments. Contact your neighbourhood merchants’ association (via your municipality) to initiate a project or join the Restaurateurs Good Food (FR) guild to become part of the collaborative returnable containers network in Brussels.


The hospitality industry has a lot of room to manoeuvre with respect to waste reduction. Find out how to make a difference:


Suggest tap water:

  • By suggesting water directly from the tap (filtered with a ceramic filter or treated with a water fountain) you will reduce pollution from water transport and containers as well as the waste from plastic bottles (if you don’t use glass bottles).
  • The equipment needed will pay for itself in two days to four weeks of use by selling water to customers at a very affordable price while maintaining your margin.

Suggest drinks made in-house, in returnable containers or in large packaging formats:

  • “Home-made drinks” require labour to prepare but are easy to make and inexpensive. They provide greater margins than pre-packaged drinks (+300%). They can be prepared in advance during down times. The equipment will pay for itself after selling 4L of “home-made” drinks.
  • Drinks in returnable containers will save you time and money associated with managing drink container waste.
  • Drinks in large containers will also generate savings of up to 30% on the purchase of drinks and free up storage space.
  • Reusable containers for hot and cold drinks: suggest personalised containers for drinks to include the name of your business and gain customer loyalty.
  • Save on the cost of disposable cups (€0.03 to €0.06/disposable cup) and generate new margin on the sale of reusable containers.
  • Reusable straws and stir sticks: avoid using these disposable items from the start. Otherwise, replace them with reusable alternatives.
  • Reduce the production of plastic waste and the costs associated with the purchase of disposable straws and stir sticks (€0.004 to €0.013/unit).


  • Reusable containers for take-away dishes: accept the reusable containers your customers bring in or sell or have a deposit on reusable containers.
  • Save on the cost of disposable containers (€0.1 to €0.5/for each disposable container avoided) and avoid the work and cost of managing waste. Generate a profit of €0.5 to €5.00 per reusable container sold.
  • Reusable dishes, cutlery and serviettes: they will enhance your tables and make them more convivial.
  • Save on the cost of purchasing disposable products (€0.035/disposable plastic dish; €0.15/per set of disposable plastic cutlery; disposable serviette: €0.02/unit) and the cost of managing waste. Purchasing reusable solutions will pay for itself quickly (8 to 10 uses).
  • Replace disposable mini-packaging (sauces, sugar, milk, biscuits, etc.) with condiments or sauces bought in bulk and provided in reusable containers: these reusable items will decorate your establishment and can promote a local (e.g. milk), labelled (Fairtrade/organic), artisanal (e.g. mayonnaise) or home-made (e.g. biscuits) product.
  • The same quantity of product in large packages generates between two and seven times less waste than individual servings. The reusable containers will quickly pay for themselves thanks to the gain on the purchase price of large packaging.

If you’re looking for potential solutions and suppliers, attend the Salon Zéro Déchets (Professionals) which will be held this 14 November 2019 at Tour & Taxis.


At the end of 2018, Brussels Environment launched a call for projects to support the zero-waste practices of Brussels-based food and hospitality businesses (FR). The winners received technical and financial support and visibility with the general public. Of the 51 applications received, the various projects meeting zero-waste challenges of 12 food and hospitality businesses were selected.

Go to the Horeca et Commerces alimentaires Zéro déchet call for projects (FR) page to find out about the 2018 winning projects and information sheets on zero-waste practices (FR) developed by Brussels Environment and its facilitators Groupe One and EcoRes. The information sheets are intended to meet the specific challenges of these practices:

  • Economic and environmental utility of zero-waste practices
  • Supplier references
  • Tools to communicate with customers
  • Advice on how to implement new zero-waste practices

Article written by Eveline Lambertz, project manager at Groupe One and Ecores,
Zero waste facilitator for shops and hospitality businesses for Brussels Environment.

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