Food waste is an epidemic in the U.S., and Chipotle, which prides itself on its green initiatives, is no exception. One employee took to Reddit to complain about pounds of untouched rice that they were forced to toss.
Still, food waste remains a problem for the restaurant. It’s not just Chipotle, however. U.S. restaurants throw away about 84% of their unused food.
All of this adds up, as products that could have been reused or recycled are replaced with new food instead. This drives up a restaurant’s costs, which often get passed on to the consumer.
Plus, much of this food waste could be given to families in need. Feeding America and its networks of food banks rescue around 3.6 billion pounds of food each year, but this represents only a small portion of food that could have been donated, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, restaurants only donate about 1.4% of their food waste.
Of course, food waste at restaurants is not always safe to donate, such as partially eaten meals. However, the Green Restaurant Association said that nearly 95% of restaurant food waste can be recycled or composted.
Throwing out food is also bad for the environment. While perfectly good food sits, decaying away at dump sites, the production, transport, and handling of new food to replace it generates a lot of planet-warming pollution.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. One San Francisco-based pizzeria is transforming food that would have otherwise been tossed out into gourmet pizzas. And South Korea is winning the battle against residential food waste, recycling nearly 100% of its unused food thanks to a mandatory composting program.
The original post was left in 2019, but comments on a 2023 post about Chipotle’s wasteful practices indicated that staples like rice, chips, beans, steak, and seasonal meats still get tossed each night.
Commenters were more than mildly infuriated by the post, with one saying, “It always upsets me to see stuff like this. My mom had an employer back in the day that would let employees take the food that was to be trashed. I wish more places were like that, or at least cut down on their food waste.”
Another person added that some restaurants are stepping up.
“There’s a chain restaurant that bags up leftover food from their place and sends the bags to a local food pantry,” they said.
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