Most people know that organic waste has the potential to become productive, fertile soil if treated in the correct way. What you may not know is that over 60% of our landfill is organic waste. If left to rot in landfill, it creates methane gas which is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than C02. Managing food waste is a problem which some innovative companies like the Yume app, Spade & Barrow and City Harvest are addressing on a large scale.
Initiatives such as the Yume app put consumers and community organisations in touch with restaurants who have left over food to eat. This reduces the amount of quality food going into waste systems in restaurants. Spade and Barrow aims to reduce waste at the farm by selling produce which does not fit the aesthetic standards for supermarkets.
City Harvest is an initiative helping the restaurant industry aim for zero food waste. Using organic composting machines, they convert food waste from the restaurant industry into fertile compost. This compost is then delivered to urban gardens which can then sell produce back to the restaurants. These urban gardens also offer disadvantaged youth the opportunity to gain valuable skills and horticultural certificates.
Executive Officer of City Harvest, Joshua Benjamin, says that “their motivation was to change the way we think about 'waste', and show people how easily food can be turned into a resource through composting. In addition to this was the desire to increase green spaces in the city, encourage local food production and help the disadvantaged members of our community by providing education and training opportunities.”
“Their motivation was to change the way we think about 'waste', and show people how easily food can be turned into a resource through composting"
Kinfolk Café is a social enterprise and prides itself of donating all its profits to two Australian charities - The Cathy Freeman Foundation and Urban Seed. Composting is an issue that has been on the cards for a long time, but there were always obstacles to overcome.
They’re now composting in collaboration with City Harvest and their neighbours at The Savoy Tavern, who have invested in an organic recycling unit by Closed Loop that reduces the volume of food waste by 90 per cent in a 24-hour period.
General Manager at Kinfolk, Jarrod Briffa, says “We’ve been wanting to compost our food waste for years now, but operating out of the city, and in a large building with its own waste management system, has made it impossible.” The last time the café tried to implement composting it wasn’t a success. “To try and start a good habit, we went through a stage of collecting our food scraps in a compost bin. But we didn’t have anywhere to put the scraps, so we were just binning it in the general waste!”
The practicalities of composting in the city makes it very difficult. Briffa says “The body corporate of the building were worried about rats and the smell that a composting system would generate.”
“It wasn’t until we were able to collaborate with our neighbours at The Savoy Tavern that we could implement the City Harvest System and start composting properly” he said.
“It wasn’t until we were able to collaborate with our neighbours at The Savoy Tavern that we could implement the City Harvest System and start composting properly”
Other restaurants have had great success with the system. Benjamin says that “there are a number of key benefits of composting for food service businesses – environmental, economic and social. Of course, there is the major environmental benefit of diverting food waste from landfill. Given the amount of food waste generated in preparation and in service, restaurateurs find their general waste bills and collection reduce dramatically. For example, Maria Bortolotto, owner of Cecconi's Flinders Lane, says her restaurant has reduced their food waste bills by 65% and 75% reduction in food waste collections since they began composting. Other restaurants believe they have reduced their general waste production and collection by 90%.”
The key for implementing the system in Melbourne will be collaboration with neighbouring restaurants and the cooperation of the Melbourne City Council. In the CBD, where space is at a premium, it will often be necessary for neighbours to share their composting systems. It is important that council regulation allows for these systems to be installed safely and cost-effecively.
City Harvest has been in talks with the City of Melbourne over the last year and Benjamin says that “they have been really supportive about what we are trying to achieve.” He says that there are a few ways which the city council can help support initiatives like this including “promoting the cause, providing subsidies/incentives for onsite composting units so all businesses can participate, and providing collection service for food waste (as they do with household green waste)”
With restaurants collaborating and the city council on board, Briffa says “I’m looking forward to customers seeing their food scraps turned into a little bag of good, healthy soil for sale in the café.” He says that hopefully, this will help to start the conversation and inspire other hospitality organisations to do things a bit differently.