Trafalgars / Sweet Obsession owners Lorne Tyczenski (l) and Stephen Greenham with their composter. Tim Pawsey photo


Calling all restaurateurs!

When it comes to how you dispose of your garbage, if you have even the slightest hint of a social conscience (and from my experience most do), this one’s a game-changer.

What if you could forget about filling that dumpster with all kinds of garbage every day, reduce your organic waste by around 90 percent (or more) and generate usable top soil almost overnight, that could be put to good use growing more food?

A couple of  forward thinking Vancouverites are doing just that. And, as we saw for ourself the other day,  the results are nothing short of spectacular.

A truly dramatic reduction

Lorne Tyczenski (l) and Stephen Greenham with all that’s left of one week’s garbage, Tim Pawsey photo

In just four months since installing a South Korean built GreenGood GC-50 composting machine last September; and adopting a comprehensive, closed loop composting and recycling program, Vancouver’s Westside Trafalgars Bistro and Sweet Obsession Bakery (** below) have eliminated their industrial dumpster. Previously. it was emptied four times a week. Now, thanks to the machine (which is about the same size of a standard, full size home freezer) the two businesses produce barely enough landfill waste to fill one regular garbage bag a week. That’s well less than half a regulation City of Vancouver household pick-up bin.

Owners, Lorne Tyczenski and Stephen Greenham embarked on their quest to find a more efficient way to handle waste after talking with Inner City Farms, the Vancouver based urban agriculture collective that, through its Urban Lots program, facilitates growing vegetables, fruit and culinary herbs in (esthetically pleasing) residential spaces.

(While others are pursuing collaborative composting programs, as of last week, Trafalgars was the first and only area restaurant to have installed its own machine.)

Restaurant waste: A major landfill problem

In the U.S., restaurant food waste makes up about 14 percent of landfill, although waste food related products overall could be as much as half.

“We produce a lot of organic waste,” says Tyczenski, who notes that restaurant waste accounts for a large proportion of landfill.

The owners originally looked into a water based system that inoculates garbage with bacteria to break it down into grey water— kind of like a giant, sophisticated garburator.

“But—even though it’s city-approved—all that material still goes into the sewer system. We didn’t feel that (by taking that course) we would be properly handling our own problem,” he suggests.

After implementing a sorting system and involving their staff of some 40 people in the process, they opted to purchase the specific model of GreenGood composter  that would be capable of handling the two companies’ waste stream.

Garbage (2,000 lbs) in. Soil (350 lbs) out

“It takes all of your organic matter, including everything from floral arrangements, to some paper—even most bones—and turns it into usable soil in a matter of hours,” says  Greenham.

The machine takes the bacteria and enzyme inoculated organic matter and ‘digests’ it with highly torqued arms turning the material over frequently.

The machine removes about 80 or 90 percent of the moisture, which is the real problem here,” explains Greenham.

The end result?

“We put in over a ton (2,000 pounds) of material a week (between the bakery and the bistro)—and 350 pounds comes out,” he says. In addition, the company works with Urban Impact to effectively handle its recyclables.

In just 24 hours, the soil produced is ready for use

The clean and very usable soil is picked up weekly. And it’s currently being put to good use, building up the soil quality at East Hastings Community Garden.

Added benefits? No mess, no smell and no rodents. Plus, you become a lot more aware of what you waste and what you actually use

“It’s really a ‘no brainer; We’re taking all of our organic waste and putting it back into the soil—and, in effect, back into the food chain,” say the owners.

Interestingly, though, the restaurateurs aren’t interested in being called ‘Green,’ which they feel is term now too overused.

It’s not that we’re ‘green;’ we’re just being responsible. We’re dealing with the problem and not off-loading it on somebody else,”  say Greenham and Tyczenski, who would like nothing more than for other businesses to follow their example.

Sure, but …

How much does all this cost?

“We didn’t realise until we’d done it just how much sense it made,” say the owners, who expect $25,000 system to fully pay for itself over about two years—three at the most—as they were paying rental and collection costs of just under $1,000 a month for the dumpster now removed. The electricity to run the machine costs around $100 a month.

Used cooking oils are recycled separately, as is cardboard, although a good mix of unbleached paper products also goes into the composter, to help the breakdown process.

The only things that have no place to go, except to the landfill, are items such as used ball-point pens, elastic bands, drier debris (from the in-house laundry) and (ironically) twist ties.

The Trafalgars / Sweet Obsessions owners have every reason to be proud. But their main interest now is to encourage other businesses—especially restaurants—to follow suit.

We couldn’t agree more. In fact, there’s a pretty nifty home model of GreenGood (aptly nicknamed the “Red Dragon’) that we might even have to get for ourselves.







From the press release …

About Trafalgars Bistro and Sweet Obsession Cakes and Pastries 

Trafalgars Bistro is a cozy, informal, award-winning Ocean Wise restaurant with a modern French menu located in Vancouver at 16th & Trafalgar.  Chef Matthew Villamoran’s style embraces French classical techniques, Italian processes, high quality ingredients, using sustainable products from the Pacific Northwest.  Two doors down, Sweet Obsession Cakes and Pastries is a bakery and café with patio, serving up fine desserts and savoury snacks of uncompromising quality using no stabilizers, preservatives, and no artificial colour or flavourings.  Owners Lorne Tyczenski and Stephen Greenham have created their bistro and bakery with a farm-to-table philosophy supporting local organic farms that share their passion for sustainability, simplicity and seasonality.  The Westside favorites have been neighbourhood fixtures since 1993.