waste management

Keep pests away from your restaurant’s waste

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By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

Nothing ruins a lunch quite like a cockroach scuttling across the table. Unfortunately, by offering an unlimited supply of food, water and shelter, restaurants can be an oasis for common pests like cockroaches and flies.

What many restauranteurs fail to realize, however, is that a pest problem inside oftentimes originates from the outside or due to an inadequate pest control program. Indeed, most pests are originally attracted to restaurants via the dumpster, and solving pest problems indoors are futile unless proper trash management is practiced.

Learn which pests are most commonly found in foodservice establishments and how you can help prevent them by implementing waste management best practices.

Understand the threats

While pests like pantry weevils and moths are attracted to indoor food storage, the pests below are likely to sneak inside after outside attractants have lured them onto your property.

  • Rodents: Rats and mice love finding warm places to take shelter close to abundant food sources, and there’s no better home than inside or outside a dumpster, a haven for food and moisture. Be on the lookout for burrows under the dumpster or nearby areas, runways with tracks, noise and sudden movement if they’re in the area.
  • Flies: Believe it or not, dumpsters are the number one source of filth fly problems around food handling facilities. As maggots, the flies develop inside the dumpster, while emerged adult flies will zoom in to feed on food and scum. And even a clean dumpster isn’t foolproof – flies are also attracted to the smell of the garbage, spilled food debris and the liquefied runoff from dumpsters.
  • Cockroaches: Nothing attracts cockroaches quite like the smell of trash. Add in warmer weather, and you’ve got the ideal cockroach crash pad in your dumpster.
  • Other: Although a slightly lesser threat, ants and other crawling insects such as ground beetles, wasps, and other vertebrate pests such as birds, squirrels, raccoons and skunks may also be attracted to your restaurant’s waste.

Implement waste management best practices

By proactively following the steps below, your dumpster can be kept safe from pests.

  • Placement: Generally, dumpsters should be kept a minimum of 15 feet – but ideally more than 50 feet – away from outside doors. Never park a dumpster directly outside a restaurant’s back doors, as this will be an open invitation for pests. Instead, place the dumpster in a sloped area that drains to a sanitary serve sewer to help prevent seepage from the dumpster forming puddles on ground.
  • Consider the foundation: Ideally, dumpsters should be on wheels, raised slightly above the ground to keep rodents from burrowing beneath the waste. If wheels are not possible, be sure your dumpster is placed on a concrete pad that makes it impossible for pests to enter from underneath.
  • Liners: All trash, particularly food waste, should be kept in heavy-duty trash bags that are tied off tightly before being placed into dumpsters. This will subdue the smell that oftentimes attracts pests.
  • Power wash: Although it may seem counterintuitive to clean the trash, this is exactly what needs to be done to help create a pest-free zone. The area surrounding the dumpster should be power washed at least weekly to clear food debris or any liquid that may have leaked from the dumpster. In addition, dumpsters themselves should be washed whenever they smell strongly of rotting trash.
  • Close it up: Dumpster lids should remain closed and tightly sealed. This will help prevent flies from swarming above the dumpster and feeding on the food below. Moreover, this will trap any odour inside.
  • Cut down the waste: Nothing will help cut down pests like cutting down on your food waste. If there is excess prepared food at the end of a day, consider donating product to a local charity that feeds the hungry. Reach out to farmers who may purchase food waste for animal feed and natural compost. Used grease and oils can be sold to biofuel producers.
  • Stay aware: Assign staff members to check the dumpster twice daily for any trash that may not have made it inside and to ensure the lid is properly closed. Being vigilant is the only true way to help prevent pests from being attracted to food waste.

Maintain your waste management strategy

Pest control is a long-term process, not a one-time event. Implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach at your foodservice establishment is essential to maintaining the sanitation of your restaurant and the happiness of your customers. In an effective IPM strategy, restaurant staff and pest management providers work together to assess pest situations, implement corrective actions and monitor effectiveness.

This ongoing process can ensure pests stay away from your restaurant – both on the inside and the outside. By being proactive about your waste now, you won’t have to waste your time on pest infestations later.


About the author:

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at asinia@orkincanada.com or visit www.orkincanada.com.

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