Cultivating relationships

Can a hotel reduce and make the most out of food waste while supporting local growers?

Launceston’s Peppers Silo Hotel in Tasmania is leading the local industry in the battle against food waste, by turning its kitchen scraps into compost, while working on a cooperative forward planning with local growers at the same time.

As one of the early commercial adopters of Launceston City Council’s Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) system, the hotel is on-track to divert around 24 tonnes of waste from landfill per year.

Its general manager, Paul Seaman, said: “We’ve been weighing the bins each day and our early calculations indicate that we’ll be sending about two tonnes per month to Council’s composting facility. We’re not just talking about veggie scraps, the system can also take dairy, meat, bones, coffee grounds and cardboard packaging, so in a large hospitality business like ours it all adds up.”

The collected FOGO material is sent to Launceston Waste Centre’s purpose-built Organics Processing Facility to be turned into compost, which is then used on local parks and nature reserves.

The hotel’s head chef, Thomas Pirker, said the operational simplicity of the FOGO system made it easy for businesses to implement.

“There’s not a lot of extra training or new processes involved, it’s really just a matter of getting the bins and getting started. Not only does this system reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, the compost helps to build up the quality of soils, making them more drought resistant and nutrient rich, which is another great outcome,” said Pirker.

According to the hotel’s food director, Massimo Mele – one of the pair behind the initial push for FOGO – it wasn’t difficult to get the rest of the team on board the sustainability train.

When asked where his inspiration hailed from, Mele shared that he has been an active part of the OZHarvest CEO Cook Off (a food-rescue organisation’s flagship annual event), and was made acutely aware of how much bread, dairy, vegetables and basic staples were wasted.

“I started to really look at my waste at home, and thought about just how much we waste in commercial kitchens,” he noted. Mele went on to attend a workshop at Parliament House, where he met some “very inspiring people” who were working towards reducing food waste on the national level. Australia currently has a roadmap for this, and aims to halve the country’s food waste by 2030.

Aside from FOGO, Pirker also shared how committed the hotel is to local supply chains and service providers.

“It’s still early days, but we’re working with some of our core growers on a system to better manage supply and demand. The growers provide us with seasonality calendars that show what produce will be available at different times of the year, and we provide them with a forecast of our anticipated orders of those ingredients based on seasonal menus,” he elaborated.

This cooperative forward planning offers a degree of certainty to both parties, and opens up conversations about what other ingredients a farmer might want to grow that can be used by the property, and vice versa.

“Participating in this information sharing also educates our chefs coming up through the ranks about how local and seasonal ingredients offer a superior flavour and quality along with social, economic and environmental benefits,” said Pirker.

Other sustainability initiatives include eliminating disposable packaging from produce deliveries. Local growers currently deliver vegetables unpackaged and in reusable plastic crates, which the hotels then unload and return to the suppliers ahead of the next delivery. There is no plastic waste or cardboard boxes to dispose of.

And these efforts have not gone unnoticed. Other hotels like Peppers Seaport and Mantra Charles in Launceston are also thinking of implementing the FOGO system after learning about its long-reaching impact, while local restaurants have approached the hotel to learn from its best practices.

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