Case study

Sorting in the food service industry: Top Brands leads by example


In the kitchens of Top Brands restaurants, all waste gets neatly sorted: glass, paper and cardboard, organic waste and PMD. ‘We’ve seen a significant decrease in the amount of residual waste in recent years. This is the result of a carefully considered approach and close cooperation with our waste partners, but above all it’s due to the daily efforts of our employees,’ says Tine Schelfout, Facility Coordinator.

Top Brands consists of four well-known restaurant chains: Pizza Hut, Paul, Ellis and WASBAR. It employs a total of more than 2,000 people at 161 locations across Belgium. ‘From the head office, we support the managers of each restaurant in their daily business. Sustainable waste management is an important part of that,’ says Tine Schelfout.

Mapping out the situation

‘Sorting PMD had actually been on our priority list for a long time. The Covid period in particular threw a spanner in the works, but we took up the project again in 2022. To be clear, it’s not that there was no sorting at all in the kitchens of our restaurants before then. What was needed, though, was a thorough and carefully considered approach,’ stresses Tine Schelfout.

‘We started by visiting some of our restaurants together with a representative of Fost Plus. The aim was to map out the situation precisely: what flows are involved, what are the quantities, which bins are used, how collection is organised, and so on. Based on that, we were able to make a good estimate of what we needed, and we started a pilot project at three restaurants.’

What goes where? Check the sorting rules for the hospitality industry!

‘During our visits to the Top Brands restaurants, we noticed a lot of packaging waste being generated in the kitchens that made staff hesitate when it came to sorting,’ says Jürgen De Ridder, Marketing Manager at Fost Plus. ‘This was typically packaging that’s very similar to the packaging we’re familiar with at home, but that looks slightly different or is bigger than the household size. Bulk packaging of spices, sauces and coffee, bag-in-boxes, gas bottles and plastic films, for example. And then there were the industrial films and bags, which don’t belong in PMD anyway.’

‘To provide clarity, we’ve developed specific sorting rules for the hospitality sector, in collaboration with our quality department and with the approval of the Interregional Packaging Commission. We’ve also summarised the instructions on a handy poster that you can display in the kitchen of your business.’

Download the PMD sorting rules for the food service industry

Above all, sorting is a habit

‘Sorting waste doesn’t seem that difficult in itself. In practice, though, you run into a number of obstacles. A first challenge is time: during a busy shift, it’s not always easy to keep your mind on sorting. It’s also quite a challenge to provide enough space for the various waste bins everywhere. That’s something we definitely want to incorporate into the design of our future restaurants.’

Besides the practical considerations, employees’ motivation was also decisive. ‘Ultimately, they’re the ones who have to do it, day in and day out. Initially, we were still seeing some hesitation here and there, although there were also restaurants where staff couldn’t wait to get started. Above all, we found that you have to give it some time: sorting is a habit.’

To manage waste collection properly, Top Brands worked closely with waste partner Renewi. ‘The frequency of collection is especially crucial. You don’t want the waste to start piling up and cause odour problems. It also took a while to find the right collection containers: a small Paul bakery in the Brussels metro requires a different solution from a Pizza Hut branch located outside the city.’

Everything lumped together? Never again!

The results are unmistakable. ‘We’ve seen a clear reduction in residual waste at all our restaurants. In some cases it’s been nearly halved – although that’s not due solely to PMD, as we’re also sorting more and more organic waste. The quantities collected also depend on the type of restaurant. At our WASBARs, for example, more PMD is generated than at Ellis, where we have more glass drinks packaging.’

And what about the cost? ‘At the end of the day, sorting does require some investments: bins, roller containers and infrastructure modifications. But I think that as a company we need to look beyond costs. Because in 2024, we really can’t afford to lump everything together any longer,’ concludes Tine Schelfout.

Sorting PMD in your business? Fost Plus is happy to help!

Discover our new page on ‘Sorting in the hospitality industry’. With tips on even better sorting in your business, a tailor-made waste bin plan, a handy poster with the sorting rules for the hospitality industry, and much more.

Sorting in de food service industry