Chipotle outlined its first real campaign under refreshed leadership Monday (April 9). It’s not a flashy new menu item or TV spot, but rather a reinforced vision of something the company has touted for decades. By 2020, Chipotle said it plans to divert half of all of its restaurant waste from landfills.  

“Increasing our waste diversion rate to 50 percent is an ambitious goal, but we feel it’s important to be assertive in our efforts to advance our purpose,” Caitlin Leibert, head of sustainability at Chipotle, said in a statement. “We remain deeply dedicated to bringing guests great tasting food while upholding Chipotle’s values and commitment to food made with respect for the land and environment.” 


Can new CEO Brian Niccol wake up Chipotle.

Chipotle’s multimillion-dollar plan to fix its business.

Since 2015, Chipotle said it increased its diversion rate from 31 percent to 40 percent—where it stood in 2017. The company’s goal to divert materials that would otherwise be sent to a landfill would lower emissions and “be a positive force for change,” it said.

Chipotle has a full-time Diversions Coordinator to oversee the task. The company works with partners to ensure proper waste handling as well, including RiverRoad Waste Solutions, a company that aids about half of Chipotle restaurants to evaluate and implement programs to maximize waste diversion.

Here’s what Chipotle plans to do to reach the goal:

Reduce: Programs such as Chipotle’s Mindful Prep initiative, which trains restaurant staff to minimize food waste during the preparation process, along with targeted initiatives to reduce packaging, have lowered the amount of total waste upfront.

Right Sizing: Chipotle adjusts services and food preparation to its sales per restaurant so less food is going to waste at the end of day.

Recycling: More in-restaurant recycling and compost programs are being implemented for food packaging disposal. With this, Chipotle is working towards a goal of ensuring 100 percent of its restaurants are recycling by 2020.

Waste Audits: Chipotle goes a step further in waste management by using existing data to predict and manage its waste diversion rate. For example, after auditing its restaurants, the company replaced plastic wrap, a non-divertible product, with reusable lids to reduce the amount of material it sends to landfills. Chipotle is constantly assessing opportunities like these to reduce waste and support the environment.

Food Donations: By 2020, Chipotle has pledged that 80 percent of its restaurants will participate in the Harvest Program, which donates leftover food to local community organizations.

Composting: The company is also committed to increasing the availability of composting in its restaurants to 20 percent by 2020.

“Chipotle is never satisfied when it comes to minimizing its environmental impact,” Kris Bunnell, CEO of RiverRoad Waste Solutions, said in a statement. “The company is always looking for new ways to go above and beyond to do what is best for their guests, the community and the environment.”

Chipotle is operating under a fresh CEO in former Taco Bell leader Brian Niccol, who assumed the position in early March. Then the company’s longtime CMO, Mark Crumpacker, stepped down and Chris Brandt, formerly the executive vice president and chief brand officer at Bloomin’ Brands’ Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming’s, began the job April 2.

Story, Sustainability, Chipotle