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Taco Time Embraces Seattle Waste Ordinance

Redefining the quick service restaurant industry and simplifying waste sorting by transitioning all food serviceware to compostable items made with Ingeo.

Situation

Since the 1960s, Taco Time Northwest’s 75 stores have grown to become an iconic restaurant chain known for serving delicious, healthy and freshly prepared food for both “dine in” and “take out” customers. With its focus on quality, local sourcing and sustainability, Taco Time is redefining the quick serve restaurant (QSR) industry.

When the City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2010 that required compostable and recyclable single use food service items in dine-in food service operations, Taco Time willingly complied, and followed the standard 3 bin COMPOST/RECYCLE/TRASH sorting system. After discovering that all it took was one person in a hurry placing something in the wrong bin, and 90% of the materials end up as trash, they worked together to solve the sorting challenge and create a better system for the customer. Acknowledging that the intent of Seattle’s ordinance was to minimize waste to the landfill, Taco Time set out to redesign the model around success, and a single bin “food and compostables” collection system was added to the front of the house.

Taco Time Cup

Solution

Taco Time enlisted the expertise from The City of Seattle, Cedar Grove Composting, Service Paper and Gravity Design for implementing system changes, identifying effective cost competitive compostable food serviceware products, and assistance with the design and development of new collection units. Key to the success of the restaurant chain’s compost program was the addition of fully compostable food serviceware. Made from renewable resources, low-carbon-footprint Ingeo-based hot cups, cold cups and lids from International Paper, portion cups and lids from Pactiv, and cutlery and straws from WNA were introduced at one initial location to test various models for the new “compost only” system. Signage was key in engaging and educating customers, and collection areas were staffed throughout the stores for a period of time to acquire feedback and insights for the subsequent program implementation. Once best practices were determined, the program was rolled out to 57 restaurants with access to compost collection.

Taco Time Northwest Compost Tonnage
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Switching to all-compostable food serviceware provides our guests the opportunity to support the environment and their communities, while recognizing the leadership efforts of a local brand they know and trust.

Wes Benson, Franchise Affairs and Sustainability Manager, Taco Time Northwest

Results

Incremental changes were made from game-to-game which improved overall performance with a “learning by doing” attitude. The goal of achieving zero waste by the final home game of the 2014 football season was achieved with a 98.2% diversion rate, and the pilot program's success was first presented at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in 2015.

Key Stakeholders

Partners that made the pilot project possible:
  • Office of University Sustainability
  • Purdue Athletics
  • Purdue Sports Properties (a Learfield Sports affiliate)
  • NatureWorks
  • Eco-Products
  • Heritage Bag Co.
  • GreenCycle of Indiana Composting
  • Engineers for a Sustainable World
  • Levy Restaurants
Film Bag Compostable Trash Bag