The Age: Cafe collaborators create their own rubbish paradise
By By Joost Team On July 16, 2012
Photo: Simon O’Dwyer, courtesy theage.com.au
GROWING up next to a junkyard called Lex’s Rubbish Paradise in the Netherlands, Joost Bakker would often bring home bits of rubbish and stash them in his bedroom until he could figure out what to do with them.
To his family’s dismay, items ranging from old car tyres and twisted pieces of steel would pile up. ”As a kid I’d just collect it, I’d always wonder why people threw so much out,” he recalls.
Now he is 39, it is clear the Dutch-Australian’s childhood fascination with junk never faded. The eco-artist, recyclable home designer and now restaurateur has incorporated salvaging waste in every aspect of his career. In his latest project, he has achieved a long-held dream – a cafe with zero waste. Teaming up with Danny Colls, who has had five cafes including Cafe Racer, the pair set out to make an eatery with no bins, no rubbish.
The result is Silo, a cafe that Bakker says he designed in reverse, starting with waste production and working back from there. It is a design that relies heavily on the cafe’s $30,000 food waste ”dehydrator”, located in the back laneway.
In a first for the city’s cafes, there isn’t a single bin inside. The dehydrator turns all scraps into a fertiliser that is then delivered to farms in the Yarra Valley. ”You can throw everything in, it just needs to be organic,” says Bakker.
The machine transforms every 100 litres of waste into 10 litres of dry fertiliser.
As well as the dehydrator, suppliers are a big part of the plan. All milk delivered to the cafe comes in large steel pails that are returned to be refilled. Coffee arrives in refillable tins. The cafe’s mineral water comes in kegs.
”We have no bottles; even the local gin, vodka and whisky come in 20-litre stainless steel barrels,” says Bakker.
Almost all fresh produce is delivered to the cafe in strawberry crates – which are also returned to suppliers empty. ”There is no cardboard, no packaging, no waste,” says Colls.
The wholewheat grain (ground for bread, pasta and pastries) comes in reusable paper bags.
The cafe, which opened last week, is largely fitted out with recycled materials. On display is what looks like a large chunk of chocolate brownie and smells like dried figs but is not for sale – it is a sample of the fertiliser from the dehydrator.
At the end of the first week, less than a cup-full of waste has been produced. ”We had a small jar of elastic bands left by people on tables, the stickers that come on lemons and oranges, a Band-Aid, a plastic seal of a bottle that someone bought in from outside, a pen that ran out,” says Colls. Any waste will be melted down and stacked in the cafe as part of its decor.
Bakker says if it works, and makes money, he hopes to open more cafes like this here and abroad.
Bakker first became known for his sculptures, made from industrial waste. Later, he became a sustainable home designer, after building his own Yarra Valley home entirely of recycled materials. But Bakker is perhaps best known for Greenhouse, his eco-friendly pop-up restaurants.