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A neighborhood favorite, now also a zero waste endeavor

The Hudson Street Deli has been a beloved spot in The Armory neighborhood of Providence since 1942, and owner Bryan Rinebolt has added some crucial sustainable touches since he took over the deli 5 years ago. There’s nothing that compares to the neighborly energy of the deli during weekday lunches and weekends. Their ability to stick to their sustainability goals, while servicing a large crowd of neighbors and visitors from afar, is impressive. Check out what Bryan has to say about their experience with composting and zero-waste efforts. 

Why did you decide to compost?

Seeing all the food waste come through and end up in a plastic garbage bag was heart breaking. We have been doing it on an off for 5 years, at first working with a farmer that picked up our scraps and then a pig farmer. It finally became affordable enough for a business and we signed up with PF Trading. We are at the best time for this because there are so many start-ups working on compost pick-up.

You have a pretty small interior, how do you manage the organization in the kitchen with the composting?

We have 500 sq. ft. of kitchen and customer seating area to work with, so it’s pretty tight. As for the composting, we just repurposed a few trash bins to only hold compost instead of landfill trash, so it hasn’t made things more crowded. 

What are some of the challenges with composting at your restaurant?

The trouble with front of house composting is that as a culture we are just not used to composting, even recycling. Finding the right compostable take-away items hasn’t been easy, they either aren’t accurately described by the third party vendor, or aren’t good quality, but still more expensive. I still haven’t been able to find compostable sandwich wrappers. I tried using just newsprint but the customers complained about its leakiness. If this planet is going to survive we’ll have to make sure the right option is the cheaper option.


What are some of the rewards?

Just being able to sleep better and knowing that I’m doing the best that I can with what’s currently available. Before I had kids I was just thinking about my own life time, but now I have to think about theirs too. 

How has it affected your bottom line?

Before, we had 3 dumpster pick-ups per week, now we are down to 2, so there’s a savings. It took a few months for us to actually retrain our staff and consistently divert enough waste for the dumpster load to go down.  The costs went up, however, once we started ordering the compostable take-away products, which are expensive.


How do you train your employees to deal with the

compostable waste?

The hauler, PF Trading, provided the stickers with instructions. I had a big staff meeting and I personally made a presentation that showed pictures of landfills. I have to do this every once in a while to remind people.


How else do you meet your sustainability goals?

We provide reusable cups for our staff, that’s about 49 cups every week kept out of the landfill, and a cost savings for us. They’ve even developed the habit to use a reusable cup outside of work! We provide free filtered drinking water in reusable cups at the restaurant. I try to source more products that aren’t packaged in plastic, or have a more gentle footprint. A lot of thinking and research goes into these details that we typically take for granted.


What are some of your wishes?

I would want everyone to bring their own cups, utensils, and straw. We could get local agencies or government involved in forming more proactive policy around composting and other waste issues. We’re taking something (food scraps) that has been for a long time considered waste and not only making it into a valuable resource for growing food but also generating jobs. We’d like to see more engagement from the general public, demands for more solutions. I think if more people realize that their dollar is what drives change they would realize how powerful they are as consumers.


Hudson Street Deli | photo credit: Aleksandra Azbel

Hudson Street Deli Facebook


Compostable cups and lids | photo credit: Aleksandra Azbel


Bryan Rinebolt | photo courtesey of Hudson Street Deli


Reusable cups for the staff | photo credit: Sasha Azbel


Bring your own cup | photo courtesy of Hudson Street Deli

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