Redefining the Dish Pit 3

Section 3: EcoLab’s Project

M.G. McIntosh





What will the restaurant need from EcoLab to make this project work? After all, we need to streamline this process to make it viable.


If you were a customer of this restaurant and you walked in with your recyclables, how would they be priced? This isn’t a coin-operated Laundr-o-mat so you wouldn’t need change. Per Load? Then what’s a load? How will we measure that? Will the items be mixed or separated? Does the weight matter? How long will it take to calculate the bill? There are a number of questions that need to be answered. I think I can answer them by creating a standard recycling bin & lid (herein referred to as “the bin”), resized to fit inside a dishwasher. 


Here’s how I think this system should work, assuming the EcoLab produces a bin for this purpose. The bins will be stacked like baskets in a grocery store, ready for the customer to take home. The customer will take the bin home and fill it with recyclable items. At this point, there are two possible ways for this to play out. Option 1 is that the customer simply drops off the recyclables. The bill is already paid via the bottle deposit program that this government already has in place (might as well get our money’s worth, right?). Option 2 is that the customer is charged a flat rate per full bin. The bin and all the recyclables will be washed. The recyclables will be ready for disposal and the bins returned to the storefront. In this way, the cycle is complete. But let’s talk a little more about our two options. They pose some interesting advantages and disadvantages.


The main advantage to this system, at least early on, is the higher volume of customers using it. This means that more of our recyclables are being processed and sorted out. It also ensures that the lowest income earners have access to the program. This can help motivate people to recycle because they only have to put stuff in the bins. The main disadvantage is that restaurants have to find space to store these items or enough staff to process them right away. Anything left sitting around (and still dirty) will undoubtedly stink pretty bad. In essence, each restaurant will have to assess its capacity to wash dishes versus the amount of customers using the service and adjust accordingly.


The main advantage here is that restaurants can charge more and will have higher profits. The downside is that fewer people will pay for this service because it’s not really necessary nor are they likely to change their pre-existing recycling habits when it costs them money to do it. Lower use of this service may mean that less recycling in general and that would mean less help for the environment. On the plus side (at least for the company) it will mean the least amount of disruption to their day-to-day operations.

So, what about the “back end” or kitchen? What challenges do they face?


The kitchen’s needs are relatively small. They are already set up to wash dishes. Really, the only two big needs are more staff (to accommodate a larger workload) and the necessary racks for loading and unloading items. In particular, the restaurant will want special attention paid to the glass items to prevent breakage and unnecessary injuries. Other than that, the aforementioned “tabs” for label removal (see Section 2: The Ziploc Standard) is a must to keep staff from chronic frustration. Also, the kitchen will probably want some “wall huggers” and blue plastic recycling bags for disposal of these items. And maybe gloves.

With all this in mind, I have provided a summary of the things EcoLab will need to do below.


  1. Create the standard recycling bin to be used/borrowed by the customer
  2. Create a rack to store the stacked bins near a door for customer pickup; it should be similar in design to the ones used for baskets at the grocery store
  3. Work with manufacturers to redesign products to fit in the racks provided to restaurants (and used for loading/unloading the machines)
  4. Create any racks that are not already available but will be needed for easy loading and unloading of recyclables into the machine.
  5. Make sure all glass items have a rack to prevent breakage (and injuries)


In the next section, “Setting up the Restaurant”, I will talk more in depth about the specifics of preparing the restaurant for the extra work.


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