Darden has identified 13 different waste streams ranging from discarded food to cardboard to plastic straws.
Theoretically, 90 to 95% of that waste could be recycled or composted. However, in many of the locations, the infrastructure does not exist to recycle some or all of the materials in our waste stream. Darden is working diligently to recycle with existing systems and continually seeking out new recycling opportunities.
Least common of all recycling is the availability of composting, a key issue for Darden given that food waste is the largest single component of our waste stream making up more than one-third of our total waste, by weight. To help build our knowledge and experience, in FY2014 we are piloting organics recycling projects in select restaurants in Orlando, FL.
The Darden Harvest program distributes high quality, prepared foods to hunger relief organizations. In FY2013, Darden officially surpassed 66 million pounds of food donated since the program began in FY2004. Darden also supports the Food Waste Resource Alliance, an initiative launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Restaurant Association and the Food Marketing Institute aimed at reducing food waste.
Darden has also worked diligently to develop recycling efforts for cooking oil. Since November 2010, Darden has recycled 13,467,184 pounds of cooking oil.
While over 50% of our restaurants have been able to recycle cardboard and paper for some time, in the past two years, we have more than tripled the number of Darden restaurants that are able to do single-stream recycling that includes glass, plastics and aluminum. As a result, more than 800 restaurants are able to recycle these materials. While we are moving in the right direction, Darden's enterprise-wide landfill diversion rate (the percent of waste we recycle versus send to landfill) was 29% in FY2013, so we know we still have a long way to go to get to our ambitious goal of "zero."