Pied a Terre is an independently owned French restaurant in London that received its first Micheline Star in 1993 and still holds one Michelin Star today. A Michelin Star is one of the most sought after awards any chef or restaurant in the food business can achieve, but Pied a Terre is also becoming well known for another great achievement—they produce zero food waste.
Some may wonder how a restaurant could avoid food waste, but for Pied a Terre, and other top London restaurants, this is made possible thanks to one man, Igor Vaintraub. Vaintraub founded Indie Ecology, a food waste farming program, in 2011. Indie Ecology’s goal is to “reduce and re-think food waste.” To do this, Vaintraub collects an estimated 120 bins of food waste on a regular basis from 80 London restaurants. These scraps are then composted on his 10-acre farm in West Sussex. The process Vaintraub uses to turn food scraps into compost is based on the Japanese “Bokashi” method. The Bokashi method mixes the collected waste with molasses and microbes, which aids in decomposition and stops smells. Bokashi can be used to compost most kitchen scraps, including dairy products, fish, and meat. The process is also natural and pesticide free.
In what Vaintraub calls “their own fully managed food chain”, the compost created from collected food scraps feeds the soil that eventually grows new produce for the same kitchens they originated from. Indie Ecology even delivers the fresh produce when restaurants need it. In their words, their work involves managing the food process “from seed to plate (and back again).”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the world’s food goes to waste. This means an average of 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, and commercial restaurants alone contribute millions of tons to this combined total. While Vaintraub believes that over half of commercial restaurant waste is avoidable, engineers and scientists are coming up with solutions to rethink already wasted food. According to a new Cornell-led study in the journal Bioresource Technology, food waste should be seen as a “high value” resource. Using two separate processes, researchers have proven that food waste can be turned into bio-fuel. The first process involves the hydrothermal liquefaction of the food that extracts the energy from the food waste. After this, the remaining food waste is digested by microbes. These microbes convert waste into methane, which can be used to produce heat or power an automobile. As well as reducing the amount of food thrown into landfills, researchers believe this practice will “enhance energy and food security.”
Along with Vaintraub and the researchers at Cornell University, many people have also come to realize their responsibility when it comes to avoiding food waste. The ingenuity and passion these zero food waste pioneers inhabit proves that there are alternatives, and the world is ready for them. So next time you find yourself hungry in London, choose a zero food waste restaurant. Chances are the food is fresher, and the knowledge that the scraps will not end up in a landfill will help soothe your hunger and lessen your carbon footprint.
What do you do to avoid food waste?
Did you know food waste is avoidable?
Did you know kitchen scraps could power a car?
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