The ongoing “green” movement has prompted countless individuals and businesses to tweak the ways in which they dispose of their waste. More and more households recycle their plastic and glass waste. Some families even maintain their own compost piles to reduce the amount of food they send to landfills. You can even find grocery stores and big-box shopping centers that provide recycling bins and food waste containers right alongside their regular trash bins. But there is one industry in particular that generates tons of waste every year, yet hasn’t grown a green thumb.

The restaurant industry throws out millions of tons of food waste every year. Whether it’s the untouched asparagus that used to garnish a plate of rainbow trout, or a whole steak that just wasn’t cooked right, it just doesn’t seem right to throw perfectly good food into a dumpster. That’s why a number of restaurants in Virginia Beach have joined forces with the local aquarium to turn their food scraps into nutrient-rich compost.

Their partnership began when the EPA approached the Virginia Aquarium to conduct a fully-funded pilot program to compost all of the food waste generated by the aquarium. The waste included food from the aquarium’s eateries, as well as the leftovers from its animal residents.

Local restaurants, such as Croc’s and Captain George’s, were invited to participate in the program. In return, they were able to use the compost in their own gardens where they grew fruits and vegetables. The feedback from participating restaurants was overwhelmingly positive, with many starting their own compost piles on their property.

The composting model adopted by Virginia Beach’s restaurants is a win-win situation. Turning their food waste into compost allows them to grow their own food without having to buy fertilizer. It also reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise be hauled away by their trash disposal service. If more restaurants were to start composting their food waste, it would go a long way towards eliminating the estimated 30 million tons of food that is thrown out every year.