With Waste & Recycling identified as a material issue, we have set an aspirational goal to divert from landfills 50 percent of operational waste, as measured by weight, in our U.S. restaurants by 2020. To achieve this goal, we are focused on four main waste categories: used cooking oil, cardboard, food and packaging. In 2017, it is estimated that we generated 885,000 tons of operational waste in the U.S and diverted approximately 25% of that quantity. We will continue to work to improve our diversion rate primarily through recycling used cooking oil, packaging, and donating surplus food.
At KFC restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland, nearly all of our cooking oil is recycled into biodiesel or energy. In Australia, we partner with a third-party supplier who repurposes our used oil for biodiesel and animal feed. U.S. waste oil is also commonly reused. In 2017, it's estimated that over 9,000 tons of used cooking oil was converted to biodiesel or animal feed.
Packaging is both an opportunity and a challenge. It plays a vital role in reducing food waste by keeping food fresh, but excessive packaging contributes to nonfood and energy waste. We work continuously with our suppliers to remove, reuse or reduce packaging while maintaining products at the highest levels of quality. KFC Australia became the first quick-service restaurant to participate in a nationwide recycling initiative funded by the Australian Packaging Covenant. The market also recycles 98 percent of cardboard generated back-of-house in company-owned restaurants and the majority of cardboard from franchise restaurants.
Reducing wasted food is where Yum! Brands has made the most significant strides. We adhere to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy, which shows that there are much better places for leftover food than the landfill or even the compost bin. According to this hierarchy, reducing food waste begins at the source. We work with suppliers to purchase only as much fresh food as we expect to sell to customers based on our projections.
The next best use for surplus food is to feed hungry people. That’s exactly what Yum! has been doing for more than 25 years with our Harvest program in partnership with Food Donation Connection. Through Harvest, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants donate surplus food from our restaurants to food banks, soup kitchens and other nonprofits. KFC and Pizza Hut’s surplus foods are well-suited for donations since most are in meal-sized portions, like chicken drumsticks and whole pizzas.
Programs like Harvest are known to reduce GHG emissions from landfills and waste combustion. In 2017, the Yum! system avoided an estimated 14,500 MT of GHG emissions through food donation and recycling programs globally.
As our company transforms to comprise a greater proportion of franchise restaurants, we are sharing with franchisees the environmental, social and financial benefits of participating in this program. Learn about the Harvest program’s community benefits.
The Harvest program is the longest-running food donation program in our industry and has made Yum! a leader among our peers. We participate in and co-chair the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), a partnership between the Food Marketing Institute®, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association. Yum! representatives recently joined the FWRA in briefing the U.S. Congress on the Alliance’s mission to reduce food waste in the U.S. In the U.K., we are a member of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
We're also a member of the ReFED advisory council, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization committed to reducing the $218 billion worth of food that is wasted each year in the U.S. ReFED works with businesses, investors, innovators and policymakers throughout the food system to implement solutions, envisioning a future where combatting food waste is a core driver of business profits, job creation, hunger relief and environmental protection. With Yum! Brands’ input, ReFED published the Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide in 2018.
Yum! is the only quick-service restaurant that was invited to join the U.S. Food Loss and Waste Champions Group, committed to achieving the U.S. national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. This goal aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 12.3.