Kitchen bins are a seemingly small yet essential aspect of running a food business smoothly. Waste in the kitchen can accumulate faster than you think! Your daily produce delivery is in? Bin the packaging. Employees prepping ingredients for the day? Bin the peelings. Waiting staff sending plates back for dishwashing? Bin the scraps. The food industry creates waste at every step.
Why is a waste management system important?
Catering, food production, food preparation, retail, restaurants, pubs, cafes, or fast food shops. What do these businesses and venues have in common? They most likely all run a kitchen, and handle food waste in one way or another. And they all have a waste management system in place.
If the system you have in place is not efficient enough, your employees could be wasting time and energy emptying overflowing heavy bins, in a cluttered slip-and-trip-prone work area. This raises many health and safety flags and could affect your food rating as well as overall kitchen productivity.
As we illustrated before, waste is produced as soon as a product is delivered to a business. This includes packaging such as cardboard, bands, plastics, and foam wrapping. Food waste is created down the line, such as discarded or uneaten raw/cooked food. This could also be food that has passed the ‘use by’ or ‘sell by’ date.
A waste management system with an intentional kitchen design can help keep food waste well under control. While the more immediate goal would be to create a safe workplace and service quality food to the public, the end game is to reduce the amount of waste produced as a business!
Choosing the right kitchen bins for your workplace
Counter-top and counter-side bins are the most common bin types in commercial kitchens. Counter top are most efficient to separate prepped ingredients and food waste, which can be easily emptied as you go. Counter-side bins are ideal for holding large amounts of waste for busy kitchens while keeping a relatively small footprint. Either type or a combination of both can be integrated into your waste management system.
Worktop Container Bins
Smaller worktop bins are a popular choice to separate ingredients and waste. They are easily stacked, washed and reused. They are also extremely cost-efficient and easily replaced. However, this system requires workers to transfer ingredients by lifting cutting boards onto containers, wasting energy. Workers would also need to be constantly emptying them to larger communal waste bins.
Ideal for: food trucks, bakeries, cafes, small diners, retail shops
Pedal & Sensor Bins
Pedal bins are highly hygienic for hands-free operation. This allows employees to dispose of waste and not have to touch bin lids, which are prone to contamination. They also prevent unnecessary bending and strenuous movements. Sensor bins are the upgrade, providing soft-closing lids to contain odours and a touch-free operation. While it is ergonomic in a way, using a pedal every time can cause repetitive strain.
Open Top Bins
Some kitchens require an open top high capacity design for their rubbish bins. These offer a large aperture to minimise spills and ultimately potential slips and trips. However, these do not contain odours and you would have to sacrifice quite a bit of workspace. Large wheeled container trucks are highly efficient in collecting recyclables and waste.
Waste Separation Bins
Split recycling bins are extremely helpful to separate waste effectively, specially if they reflect your waste collection system. However, they are prone to overflowing and will need frequent emptying to stay effective. An all-in-one solution is useful where space is a premium and the bins don’t need to be emptied as frequently.
For a fast-paced workspace, we highly recommend slim bins. You can save considerable space by placing several of them side by side, where a large floor bin would normally sit. They can be colour-coded for recycling and can be open top or with pedal operated lid. However, they require careful and frequent maintenance as spills might occur regularly.
How to place kitchen bins for a better workflow
If you are currently designing your workspace, be sure to include a waste management flow into your plan. This will ensure you don’t end up with cramped workspaces, overflowing bins and fatigued employees. It will also create a smooth workflow that works for your business and increase overall productivity!
Depending on your business, try to place bins as close as possible to areas where the waste is produced. Bars, coffee stations can use water-tight bottle skips and undercounter bins. Food prep, cooking stations and dishwashing areas need handy waste bins that stay out of the way.
Consider built-in bin cabinets under counters, with openings on worktops that drop directly into open bins. This reduces any trip hazards that counter-side bins might pose. It also reduces any unnecessary straining movements employees would need to do when accessing counter-side bins.
Bins with a shorter height could also result in fatigue as employees bend over to dispose of waste. Employees that do repetitive movements could suffer from Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) eventually, resulting in increased absenteeism and decreased productivity. Taking complaints about chronic pain seriously and addressing workflow issues could help your business in the long run!
How many kitchen bins should I get?
Several factors will affect the number of bins you will require for your workspace: how much food waste you produce, how frequently you empty the bins, and, how much space is available. Emptying two or three smaller bins might be easier than emptying a single large bin!
Keep track of the amount of waste and ensure that your waste collector provides external bins with ample storage space. They should be kept away from the building to keep pests away, while staying relatively close to the kitchen entrance.
If that isn’t possible, you might want to add an intermediate storage area that can be emptied to the main external bins at the end of the day. Do not leave bin bags out overnight, which will attract rats or mice.
How frequently should I empty kitchen bins?
Bin liners are necessary when handling food waste, for good hygiene and reduced maintenance costs. They provide a barrier between the waste and bin, catching spills and preventing stains. Your waste collector will advise what type of liners they will collect.
Ideally, empty bins after each shift, even if they are not full. This is a good habit to prevent overflowing leaky bins, and fatigue in the kitchen, as heavy bins can become a problem to lift! Keep your food waste dry and remove as much air as possible from bin bags to reduce the space they take.
For ease of emptying, you might want to consider wheeled containers or bin dollies/trolleys. These also increase the overall bin height, for a more ergonomic result. Remember to keep lids on when transporting bins to prevent cross-contamination from spills.
Best practices when maintaining kitchen bins
You will need to clean your kitchen bins to prevent odours and dried-up spills, ideally daily. While the bin interior might stay relatively clean, make sure to wipe down the bin exterior, including any lids, handles and exposed rims, with a disinfectant.
Adopt a clean as you go policy by wiping down work and floor surfaces near bins. Sweep any un-binned scraps and mop/wipe sticky surfaces. Bin dollies and trolleys can prove to be useful again by allowing faster and easier floor clean-ups.
Don’t forget your external bins by periodically hosing them down or using a cleaning service! Doing so will prevent odours and pests throughout the year. Make sure to always keep lids on your external bins and prevent any spills from getting into water drains. If your bins are in a highly visible area, consider locking them and adding a screen for safety.
What happens to commercial waste?
Remember, it is the business owner’s and operator’s responsibility to keep waste secure and dispose of it properly. It does not matter if you manage commercial waste efficiently if it ends up in the wrong hands. You can send waste to landfills that are licensed or permitted by the Environment Agency.
While landfills receive more than half of food waste, methods such as recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, and incinerating are increasing in popularity. Investing in employee training and recycling bins can help reduce the damaging effect of landfill disposal.
According to WRAP research, the UK manufacturing and retail sector produces 1.9 million tonnes of food and drink waste per year. It’s possible to avoid more than half of that amount, and you can help by changing something as small as your kitchen workflow.
Kitchen bins for a better workflow benefit more people than you think: a safe and healthy workplace for employees, a productive and profitable business for employers, quality uncontaminated food for the public, and ultimately, a more sustainable future for the planet.
- How food businesses must dispose of food and former foodstuffs – Guidance by gov.uk
- Fitting food waste bins into your workspace – Article by wrap.org.uk
- Complying with food safety and legal requirements – Article by wrap.org.uk
- Food and waste disposal – Trading Standards Institute Advice – bromley.gov.uk
Read our previous blog post 5 Tips for Recycling in a Small Space for more best practices on managing waste in a small work area!