In less than two hours, the UK produces enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall. It is a statistic which so angers Douglas McMaster that he has set out to change it – starting with a 50-seat restaurant on a quiet road in Brighton.
After 12 years working in the fine dining industry in establishments all over the world, the British-born chef has returned to the UK to open Silo, the country's first permanent zero-waste restaurant. The idea is a simple one: throw nothing away and serve only locally grown, seasonal food.
"Getting around the initial 95 per cent of typical waste was surprisingly simple," Mr McMaster said. "The secret is to deal with the sources of the ingredients – local farmers and growers who work in a way we respect. We also use vessels that are endlessly reusable – to put it bluntly: things without a packet." The £22,000 compost machine to compress unwanted food scraps also helps.
According to Mr McMaster, the food industry is "traumatised". "We live in a world where we expect avocados and pineapples all year round – foods which aren't natural to our environment," he said. "Then there are all the chemicals and stabilisers in our food, which are not natural to our diet and which our bodies don't know what to do with. It's no surprise that so many people are developing intolerances to food groups."
The new restaurant, which opens in September, will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one "wild card". Rather than let food sit waiting under hot lamps, chefs will bring meals directly to the table. Flour will be milled on site, and toilets will be flushed using waste water from coffee machines.
"People might criticise the fact that we use electricity of course, but it's all relative – we need to be able to see and cook the food," said Mr McMaster, adding that he had already sought permission to fit solar panels on the roof.