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/ 22 Dec, 2021
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Vietnamese restaurant chain Pizza 4P’s showcases zero-waste dining

The concept of zero-waste dining is evolving into a movement that looks likely to expand across all sectors of the HoReCa industry in the future. 

However, many restaurant operators wonder how they can achieve zero waste – especially when sustainable practices don’t always go hand in hand with profitability. 

The reality is that – as in all sustainability initiatives – one step at a time works best. 

Yuma Nagata, sustainability manager at the fast-growing upmarket restaurant chain Pizza 4P’s, based in Vietnam, explains that zero-waste is not confined to food. 

He advises not to start out seeking to achieve 100-per-cent sustainability. 

“There is no such thing as 100 per cent sustainable. It’s a journey of improvement and we just need to keep improving, selecting the better ideas and options for the planet. We should just keep working on it.

Yuma Nagata, sustainability manager at Pizza 4P’s

“In most cases, sustainability does not directly contribute to sales. Sometimes it takes months or years to make it happen. That’s challenging, but I think it’s necessary as a sustainability manager,” Nagata adds. “Without communications like this, it’s difficult to change an organisation to be more sustainable.”

Pizza 4P’s recently opened its first zero-waste restaurant in the heart of Phom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, its first foray outside its home market and a stepping stone on the way to broader expansion across the Southeast Asia region. The eatery is intended as a concept to explore how far it can expand its zero-waste philosophy across the business – from store design and construction to tableware and food. 

Nagata says that two months after its opening, the restaurant achieved a zero-waste rating of 90.6 per cent. Despite the wide variety of sustainable solutions, the process of implementing them is far from easy. 

“At Pizza 4P’s, sustainability means many things, not just farming or energy, but more like food waste, packaging, resources, diversity, equality, and more,” Nagata says. “As a sustainability manager, I need to think about how we can improve ourselves. If we find issues related to sustainability, we will research to find a solution so we can change or improve it.”

While Pizza 4P’s has 23 stores in Vietnam, the company chose Cambodia for its first zero-waste restaurant because Nagata saw an opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper. 

“We started hiring the new staff, so we can educate staff from the beginning to separate the waste property and reduce the waste as much as possible.”

The commitment to zero waste began from the beginning right from when the store was built. Construction waste was minimal. For example, leftover wood from the flooring was used to make baskets for diners’ bags, or wooden serving platters. 

“When we built the new store, we had plastic covers to protect dust from the construction site,” recalls Nagata. “We are looking into upcycling that covers to make eco bags as that material is very durable. We are designing the shape and hopefully, we can start producing and selling these in the store in the future.”

Sustainability solutions can be seen throughout the restaurant’s interior. The company worked with a Vietnamese company to convert plastic waste into tableware and furniture, such as cutlery boxes, spice containers and table countertops. Even staff uniforms are made from excess cloth, in collaboration with a local NGO. 

Used glass water bottles are crushed and mixed with cement to make artificial marble for table surfaces. The bottom half of empty wine bottles have been converted into drinking glasses.  

Food waste accounts for the largest amount of garbage at any restaurant, so Nagata prioritised addressing that challenge. Most of the swill from the Pizza 4P’s Cambodia restaurant is collected by a partner and repurposed as food for Black Soldier Fly larvae which, when fully grown, are dried and sold as food for fish and shrimp due to its high protein content. Discarded pizza dough is turned into bait for crickets by a local farming company. 

Other food waste – such as clamshells, crab shells and eggshells that cannot be used as food for insects – is pulverised into powder, which is then used as a source of calcium for chickens. 

According to Nagata, more than 3 tons of plastic waste has already been reused through this scheme. The Cambodia store has a room dedicated to recycling, sorting 20 types of garbage.

Pizza 4P’s plans to open five new restaurants in Cambodia during the next three years, and all will feature the zero-waste concept. The brand has also begun planning zero-waste stores in Vietnam.

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