In the new issue of BARS&clubs magazine, managers from bars and pubs across Sydney discuss potential moves their venues can make in order to create a more sustainable industry for the future.

THE PANEL (pictured right to left)

  • Alissa Gabriel, Charlie Parker’s
  • Tom Pigott, Uncle Hops
  • Alexandra Cowan, The Sheaf
  • Drue Stevens, Clock Hotel
  • Glynn Firth, Solotel Beverage Manager
  • Jeremy Shipley, Solotel Group Bars Manager
  • Steve Davis, Opera Bar
  • Stefanie Collins, BARS&clubs (not pictured)

SC: How can you get your customers invested in the idea of creating sustainable bars?

AG: It’s the little tiny step – you know the first time a customer tried a Negroni seven years ago, it’s the “oh I’m not too sure, I don’t want to try something new” and then they try it, and they try it again, and then they love it. And now Negronis are probably the highest selling drinks in the country. It’s the same thing – that little bit of shock, when they ask for a straw, telling them that you don’t have them. The idea is to spark a conversation – you should be proud of the fact that you don’t have straws or you’re using an alternative. If you’re doing something special it should be part of the conversation with the customer so they’re always aware that you’re making an effort towards sustainability in the industry.

SC: What are some of the positive moves that can be made in terms of cutting down on wastage?

SD: The easiest way is simple separation of rubbish. So if you’re clearing food it’s just a simple extra step of dividing it up. That’s something that doesn’t add too much time to service as long as you have the space for the extra bins.

AG: Glass bottles is a big thing – even if you’re recycling them. There are a lot of glass bottles – so how are we reusing them – as water bottles, cutting them down for water glasses, or smashing them up and doing something with them. Some places take broken glass and melt it down, or turn the bottles into mixing glasses and other equipment. So where can we go in the industry to discuss these different options that we have for all the waste.

SD: You know what would be good, is some sort of transfer service between venues. Because we generate so many bottles, we couldn’t have 2500 mixing glasses made every week. But if people need them, we can supply them. It’s the same with the waste. I get the garnishes at the end of the night and put maybe three per cent of them in a dehydrator so that we can have garnishes for a certain cocktail, but what am I doing with the rest of it? How am I getting rid of that organic waste that is pretty useable for a lot of other people, but I just don’t have a mechanism to get it to them. So it goes in the waste. But they’re day-old lemons, not good enough to go in a drink but plenty good enough for someone else to use for something else.

TP: We’re trying to get rid of the paper sleeves that we use for cutlery. I don’t use them at home, so why am I doing it at work when they are washed perfectly well, probably better than I do in my own house. So we’re moving to a different caddy to cut down, and we’re also saving time for everyone that has to sit there and sleeve them all. They don’t serve a purpose and just end up in the bin.

GF: Tap wine – that gets rid of a shitload of glass bottles.

JS: That is something we’re getting better at.

GF: And the wineries are getting better at it as well.

SC: What about bulk spirits? To get rid of the pallets of bottles, using larger containers to cut down on waste.

SD: I came from the western suburbs. And the owners of my venue used to buy the house spirits in drums, and the drums were hooked up to machine and, click, that's your shot. They did it because they didn’t trust anyone to be able to pour and effective 30ml measure but, when you look back at it, it’s actually genius. Deliveries were a pallet of 10 drums of vodka, as opposed to two pallets of bottles.

SC: Is there space for brands to drive more action?

JS: I think something we should be doing as big groups is hitting up the big liquor companies – people like Bacardi for example, it’s a big thing for them. They’re biggest concern is Bacardi branded straws in the ocean. So maybe for us, as a company, we engage in a forum situation like this and have Pernod, Bacardi, Diageo – all the big players – and ask, what are guys going to do, because you should be a part of this process. We’re buying off them in huge quantities, Merivale too – so why not? Let’s hit them up, say what are you guys going to do better?

AG: Whether it be that we save our bottles and give them back, and they find a solution.

SD: I think people want to do something, I want to do something, but if someone could do that logistics side of things. Tom Egerton was saying that he wanted all of his organic waste to go somewhere where they could deal with it but the low threshold for disposing of something like that is something like a tonne.

AG: And the cost to ship it to the livestock companies, to turn it into feed is so high.

SC: That is something that craft breweries do quite well – is that something to consider? They drop off some kegs and take your green waste to add to their grain?

SD: Yes – that’s very easy. If there is anyone who can help with that logistic transfer in any way of the stuff that I don’t want or need to a place that can, then yes. When Tom was talking about it, if there was a middle man company that could help with the waste from multiple venues until it was viable to dispose of it en masse properly…

SC: So like Oz Harvest but for green waste?

SD: Yeah, that would be good. Because if you give people the option they’re probably willing to wear a 1.5 times increase for waste removal, if they feel good about it and it’s a sustainable direction. People are prepared to do that. But it’s the fact that there is a gap because whoever does this, is not going to making money off it. There is a need there, a definite need for a smaller focus logistics company because nothing exists right now.

SC: So do brands need to follow along behind 42Below and their scraps into soap initiative – does there need to be more of it?

AG: Yes there does. But why should we the small bars and even bar groups go to all this effort if there are these huge companies with a lot more money and a lot more resources to help with these things – why can’t we get the government involved? Why can’t we say: look we’ve looked at the amount of green waste that comes out of every bar in Sydney, and if you could help us out with a truck pick-up once a week of waste that could go out to local farms – that is one thing that we wouldn’t have to deal with.

SC: Does it come down to supporting people who support you?

AG: I think there are a lot of brands out there that we should be supporting more as well. Not just 42Below but also Dobson’s, a local distillery that uses old wine bottles and they make the labels themselves from recycled paper. We should be getting behind brands like Pisco Porton – their distillery has hydroponic plants growing in it that reuse the water. It’s all these different places that we should be supporting. They’re the ones that we be supporting.

SC: The world’s most sustainable distillery is in Tasmania – Belgrove – he built all of his equipment himself, uses old cooking oil to run that equipment, he grows all his own grain and malts it himself. Peter is a genius.

AG: These are the people that are at the forefront of Australia. It’s great to use White Lyan as an example, but it’s too dramatic. I think it’s about starting with the brands that support our ideas and helping them to help us.

TP: I’m heavily invested in the beer industry, and Stone & Wood is emulating Sierra Nevada in the States, which has gone off the grid. They completely run themselves, and Stone & Wood want to beat that. And challenging other breweries to do the same.

SC: Craft brewers are great at pushing that angle because their industry is so wasteful.

TP: Yeah – Young Henrys just installed all the solar panels on top of the brewery to cut power usage. Then there is Kegstar, which collects all those kegs – cutting down on the number of delivery trucks running around the city.

Check out the Jan/Feb issue for the discussion around getting your team on board, the straw issue, air con, lights, water usage and more…

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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