Recycling – On the Rocks with a Twist

by | Nov 12, 2019

Recycling – On the Rocks with a Twist

Ketel One Vodka is making a difference in bar and restaurant recycling

Recycling is not a word usually heard in a bar or restaurant … but that may be changing. Ever wonder what happens to that vodka bottle after the bartender sets your Ketel One Vodka Marvelous Mule on the bar? Or to that garnish added with a flourish – but rarely eaten?

Up until now not a lot – bottles and tossed-aside garnishes end up in the trash on the way to a landfill. (See the M-PASS November 2007 blog article “It’s Very Clear … We Should Be Recycling Glass.”)

It’s difficult to get an accurate count of the number of bars and restaurants in Atlanta. So let’s just say it’s a lot. If you take just part of the Virginia Highlands neighborhood, you’ll find at least ten restaurants and bars in under a half mile. And if you don’t want to walk even a little ways down the street, Ponce City Market has more than twenty spots serving food and drink and Krog Street Market more than eight.

Ketel One Vodka has been a family-run business since the Nolet Family opened their distillery in Schiedam, Holland in 1691. In the 1980s, after years of experimentation and his great, great grandfather’s tasting notes, Carolus Nolet began production of Ketel One Vodka. Today, the family’s 11th generation continues this tradition of high-quality production. The brand has a long and rich history, and the family’s commitment to quality, community and sustainability is seen not only in their ingredients, but also in the work at the distillery.

For example, employees use leftover vodka to wash out bottles prior to bottling. And in 2005 the Nolet Family built a 141-foot tall windmill to help power the distillery while reducing emissions.

How does a product from Holland affect Atlanta recycling?

Alden Weiler, the District Manager of Ketel One U.S.A. and a self-described millennial, is committed to doing her part for sustainability.  Last month, it was time for a thank-you party to her Ketel One Vodka customers. But this party wasn’t just business as usual – Weiler set out to do something different and meaningful.

She invited more than 100 people to dinner at Milton’s in Alpharetta. The stage was set for sustainability – the restaurant is a converted farmhouse with a working garden and a chef who uses locally-produced products.

Weiler researched every way the event could be sustainable: the coasters, which could be broken apart after use, were made of seeds and the recyclable straws were made of wheat (like the vodka being poured). Hitch Atlanta’s mobile cocktail lounge was there, serving cocktails using things that might normally be put into the garbage: beet juice, unused pieces of fruit made into a fruit compote for the drinks, as well as mint from Milton’s garden.

Weiler has represented Ketel One Vodka for over two years. “I was inspired to do this by my own personal beliefs as well as by the mission of my company,” she said. “There are things all of us can do day to day to make this planet we live on a better place for ourselves and our children.”

 “I knew this dinner would be important because bartenders are the key to changing the way bar and restaurant owners look at recycling,” Weiler added. She also invited a compost company, a company that collects and donates leftover food, and a recycling company – representing probably the biggest issues facing the food and beverage industry today. She asked these companies bring information to better educate her guests on waste-reduction options in their industry. M-PASS was the company she brought in to talk about recycling – in particular, recycling the countless number of bottles used daily in the hospitality industry.

Chris Witherspoon represented M-PASS at the dinner. “Younger people have a non-traditional view of the traditional bottom line. Today, we talk about the ‘triple bottom line,’ focusing on People, Planet, and Profit rather than only profit.

While not all businesses have heard of this yet, statistics show increasing interest from their customers for a commitment to social responsibility. In addition to Ketel One Vodka’s event, bartenders and business owners also get the message in other ways. At this year’s hospitality-industry-based “Tales of the Cocktail” event Brooklyn bartender William Pasternak led a panel on “The Profitability of Sustainability,” exploring how bartenders can save money by reducing their waste.

Why is this important to us?

According to Atlanta magazine, millennials already make up 25 percent of the population just in metro Atlanta alone, and the median age in Atlanta is 33.5 (World Population Report). It’s certain that this age group will continue to grow and that Atlanta wants them here. The Metro Atlanta Chamber has a marketing initiative, ChooseATL, targeted at this younger group. Since restaurants and bars are one of top two reasons this population likes living in Atlanta, that means more diners and drinkers. And they are willing to spend more money at places with sustainable practices.

It’s the economy too.

Witherspoon says, “There will never be a surplus of glass in our area. In fact, large amounts of glass are regularly shipped in from neighboring states. Glass recycling creates jobs in Georgia, and produces economic development opportunities.” So we need to do a better job of recycling it.

What’s the bottom line triple bottom line?

People, Planet, Profit – This bottom line has been the guide to M-PASS Environmental’s work since its beginning. The M-PASS waste audit looks at waste procedures in the hospitality and other industries and analyzes current waste reduction efforts, makes recommendations, and tracks results – leading to a safer planet for all people – and a boost to the bottom line.

As companies like Ketel One champion recycling in the hospitality industry and customers continue to demand sustainability practices, M-PASS is the perfect partner to help this industry meet their changing needs.

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Read More About It

More on the history of Ketel One Vodka

M-PASS’s November 2007 two-part blog “It’s Very Clear … We Should Be Recycling Glass” discusses the environmental benefits of recycling glass (e.g., reducing energy costs, strong demand for product) as well as the challenge of recycling glass in single-stream recycling programs).

A 2015 Nielsen Study of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries around the world found that “73% of Millennials will pay more for sustainability.” The same study found that the percentage of respondents aged 15 – 20 (Generation Z), who are willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact rose from 55% in 2014 to 72% in 2015.

A Cone Communications report found that 77 percent of Americans say sustainability factors into their food-purchasing decisions and a recent Pew Research Center report which found that millennials are the most sustainability-conscious generation.

Just 1 Bottle (see a presentation on what recycling just one bottle will do)

(Tales of the Cocktail® 2020 will be held July 21-26 in New Orleans).

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