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Plate to Paddock

With Closed Loop’s help, Urbane have extended their paddock-to-plate philosophy to a paddock-to-plate-to-paddock loop that raises the bar in sustainable food provision.

"Now, when the farmers drop off their produce we give them some fertiliser. Last week, my strawberry supplier gave me two trays of beautiful fresh strawberries in exchange for a tub full of fertiliser from the composter.”

Alejandro Cancino - Co-owner and Executive Chef

Background

When Alejandro Cancino decided to move to Brisbane in 2012 he brought with him a strong passion for sustainability alongside his world-renowned culinary reputation. So when he met Andy Buchanan he knew this was the opportunity he’d been looking for and the two are now co-owners of the much-lauded Urbane group.

In the heart of Brisbane the Urbane group hosts two restaurants and a bar – the elegant and exquisite Urbane restaurant, the warm and charming Euro bistro and the funky Laneway Bar.

Challenge

It’s cheap to dump rubbish in Queensland, but it didn’t sit well with Alejandro and Andy that the food waste from their kitchens was rotting away in landfills generating methane and contributing to an environmental legacy.

“I was sniffing around on Google looking for a solution when I came across Closed Loop organic composters” says Alejandro. “It all sounded too good to be true, but when I stood in front of one and saw how it turned food waste into fertiliser, I knew I had to have one!”

The challenge was to make it work economically. That’s when Andy and Alejandro put their heads together and came up with a creative way to proudly demonstrate their commitment to sustainability while sharing the costs.

When food waste is dumped in landfills it creates methane, which is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2. Food waste in landfills doesn’t create compost – instead it mixes with other types of waste and fills up our valuable landfill space.

 

 

 

 

 

Solution

The CLO50 Organics unit with a 100kg/day capacity now sits proudly in the service area at the back of the kitchen. The two smelly, 1100-litre general waste skips that previously dominated the area have been replaced by two 240L wheelie bins that handle only ‘clean’ general waste such as packaging.

The two restaurants now dispose all food waste including food preparation scraps and plate scrapings into the Closed Loop Organics unit! The food waste is turned into a resource on site, in the form of nutrient rich compost.

“We use seasonal, locally-sourced, organic supplies wherever possible”, tells Alejandro.

“Now, when the farmers drop off their produce we give them some fertiliser. Last week, my strawberry supplier gave me two trays of beautiful fresh strawberries in exchange for a tub full of fertiliser from the composter”

“He brings me strawberries, we chop off the tops, put it in the machine together with everything else and give it back to him to grow more strawberries. We love closing the loop!”

But the real innovation is the way in which Urbane makes this and their other sustainability initiatives economical.

“We try to be sustainable in all aspects of our business” says Alejandro “Not only do we buy local and organic, but we have beehives on the roof and special bacteria that process our grease trap waste.”

“But we also have to be economically sustainable.”

“So, we introduced an ‘environmental levy’. Just one dollar per table, and it’s optional so if customers don’t want to pay they don’t have to. But in 12 months only one table didn’t want to pay.”

“It also means we get to tell our customers what we are doing and show them we care about the planet." When we tell them what we’re doing people don’t mind contributing too. We all need to share the costs.”

The Result

The rear of The Euro opens up into a courtyard at the end of a cobblestone alley. Before the installation of the Closed Loop Organics unit the area was often subjected to the unpleasant wafts of odour coming from the nearby waste area. But not anymore.

“We now use the courtyard as an al fresco dining area, which allows us to diversify our dining offerings” says Andy.

“Our service area is much cleaner and we have reduced our general waste production and collection by 90%.”

Urbane continue to enjoy a reputation as offering one of Brisbane’s finest dining experiences and need a new mantelpiece for the awards they are winning.

“It’s very rewarding to be recognised for our dining achievements”, says Alejandro, “but I’m just as proud of our sustainability initiatives. We need to understand we are just custodians of the earth.” 

Assistant chef, Will tells how he was sceptical about the Closed Loop Organics unit. “When (Closed Loop Sustainability Consultant) Brendan was telling us how it worked I thought he was full of it. So I loaded the unit up with a dozen large fish frames and seafood offcuts. I checked it out the next day and there was no sign of it - no fish heads or anything. The following day we had a big pork delivery and I loaded about 30kg of trim into the unit. I couldn’t believe it when I opened the machine up the next day and not only was there no sign off the trim but the stuff actually smelled good!”

For more information, check out the Urbane Group on Youtube

Closed Loop services used in this case

  • Waste Audit
  • Organics Recycling
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Analysis and Insights
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