Darden has identified 13 different waste streams ranging from discarded food to cardboard to plastic straws. Theoretically, 90 to 95 percent 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. We will launch pilot composting programs in a select number of markets in FY2013, with the goal of better understanding what the technical and behavioral challenges to composting are and how we can overcome them.
The Darden Harvest program distributes high quality, prepared foods to hunger relief organizations. In FY2012, Darden officially surpassed 56 million pounds of food donated since the program began in 2004. Darden also supports the Food Waste Coalition, 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 7,312,446 pounds of cooking oil.
While over 50 percent 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 700 restaurants are able to recycle these materials. With this greater access to recycling facilities, we were able to increase the percent of waste we recycled by 14 percent between FY2008 and FY2011. 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 28 percent in FY2011, so we know we still have a long way to go to get to our ambitious goal of "zero."