Scrapping Single Use Plastic straws - Lab 22 Cardiff

Tighten the noose on the ‘single use’

Last Saturday, Lab 22 put 5 orange bags full of rubbish out on the street and collectively put 14 bags of rubbish out in the week. We, admittedly, aren’t the biggest team on Mill Lane. If we presume a positive correlation between how much a venue takes and how much refuse they put into orange bags, we can assume around a weekly Mill lane output of 392 bin bags. So, what’s in the bag and how can we reduse the waste we put out?

I can divide most of the waste into 3 types in Lab 22. Food waste, paper waste and glass bottles;

Food waste

Makes up a strangely large amount of our waste considering it’s all biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. A lot of our produce, and therefore money, was going straight into the bin. At one point, we were buying in pineapples, using the leaves as garnish and throwing the fruit away. Reduction on how much and what we order is an easy and fiscally responsible way to improve our overall input vs. output. The less you buy, the less you waste. We only order ‘juicing limes’ from our market, limes that are past their ‘best before’ and subsequently are heading for the bin making them cheaper and easier to juice. Which is good business for everybody and avoided using fruit we can’t find multiple uses for.
Multi uses for the same fruit is something I’ve come to admire, it takes a lot of imagination and experience to plan how to extract different flavours from one foodstuff. Ben avoided the pineapple conundrum we had by dehydrating the pineapple, crushing it and adding malic acid, bi-carb and coconut milk powder to it and creating a delicious ‘Pina-Colada Sherbert’. Genius! Check out the journal named ‘The Grapefruit’ for some more ideas. Coincidently, everything you use on the bar makes great compost, so the last thing on your linear approach to preparing food should be a way to compost. We use a Wormery from the Original Wormery company. Its simple enough and produces great results, giving us compost to grow garnishes or simply to decorate.

Paper Waste

Single use is your worst enemy! We’ve ditched cocktail napkins because they are naff. They used to cost us around £80 for 2 weeks (even more when we had branded ones). They are used primarily to act as a barrier between your glass and the table and do possibly the worst job doing so. We changed over to cork. Trees aren’t cut down for cork, they are stripped of bark and regenerate, so the more money you give to corkers the more trees they plant. Cork is impermeable, fire retardant and elastic making it superior to paper. And guess what? Its cheaper than single use napkins in our quantities.

Straws are next in the crosshairs. U.K. consumption figures are pretty scarce but the U.S. are estimated to use 500 million every day. They are incredibly irresponsible and harmful to the environment. The most ideal solution would be to never have straws on the bar, but, being cardiff it’s an inevitable part of cocktail bars at the moment and a huge concept for someone who isn’t used to it to wrap their heads around (like when i tell people we don’t stock southern comfort). We used to use 3 straws per drink, one for tasting and two for the customer. What we did was enforce a one straw per drink policy, introduce 100% biodegradable straws and stop using straws for ‘testing’. I bought the boys some metal straws for tasting, although I like using bar spoons.
I would like to reduce to paper from printing too. If i could figure out how to do it on our system, I would print checks on a prompt only basis. Further than this I’ve seen kitchens with electronic tickets that pop up on a screen, imagine never losing a ticket or misreading the waitresses terrible handwriting ever again? Is it possible for a zero paper bar? It’s more than possible, it’s practical.

Glass waste

Glass is probably the most difficult waste to reuse at the moment. People are often satisfied with the idea of putting glass in the recycling in the belief that some Landfill wizard will remelt it into a new and wonderous use. That simply isn’t how it works. Up to 80% is used as aggregate for industrial use such as putting into roads, which isn’t the most sustainable we can be, we are turning beaches into motoways. Ideally, there would be a company that bought the bottles back, cleaned them and resold them to the distilleries at a reduced price. Until then, we save a lot of our bottles for prep and our waitress keeps pretty bottles to make craft projects. Looking forward, it would be cheaper for us to give away empty bottles, research is needed into the market for used bottles.

Lab 22 is looking to reduce waste outgoings by 50% this year, saving us hundreds of pounds. For more information and techniques on sustainability check out;

The Last Plastic Straw
Trash Tiki Sucks
Australian Bartender
Punch Drink