What Was the World’s First Zero-Waste Restaurant?

The ultimate goal of sustainable fine dining is to create a restaurant where zero waste is produced and a closed loop in food production is finally completed.

For the longest time, it was believed to be an impossible task, with at least some waste being produced as a byproduct of packaging, transportation or leftovers, and every other decision from wholesale aprons to the location has to be precisely considered before starting.

However, one restaurant based in Hackney Wick managed to create a complete zero-waste restaurant, winning a Michelin Star in the process.

Owner and head chef of Silo, Douglas McMaster, conceived his restaurant as a closed loop that innovates in a way that respects nourishment, the environment and the way we generate food.

The furniture is either upcycled pieces or crafted from materials destined for landfill, whilst the tops of tables were made out of old plastic bottles and other parts of food packaging.

Crushed wine bottles and recycled shopping bags make up the crockery, whilst the lampshades are made from the sustainable construction fungus mycelium.

However, the greatest achievement is the closed-loop system that allows for a complete elimination of waste or, to quote Joost Bakker, a restaurant that has no bin.

This is achieved through direct trade with local farmers, who deliver produce in reusable containers such as pails, urns and crates.

Much like Alain Passard’s famed L’Arpege menu, the restaurant is primarily plant-based, and whenever meat is part of a dish, every part is used in some way.

They also roll their own oats, make their own oat milk, churn their own butter, use their own mill to make flour and create alcoholic drinks from an on-site brewery.

Finally, they also use an aerobic digester to turn any leftovers into highly nutritious compost for further food growth.

This innovative approach has not only been a proof of concept but has shown the financial viability of a zero-waste closed-loop restaurant, and a template for other fine dining establishments to emulate.

June 20, 2023 — Jake Blakey