An average bar throws away up to eight bags of organic waste a night. London bartenders Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage want to change this by reusing cocktail ingredients normally thrown in the bin.
Have you ever stopped to consider what the environmental cost of a cocktail is? How much water it takes to make your drink, or how much kitchen waste it produces? Course not. You're too busy pouring that delicious ice-cold booze down your neck.
Despite this, public awareness around the issue of food waste is slowly starting to grow, one of the reasons why Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage of leading London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan have created a side project to tackle the issue.
Called Trash Tiki, the initiative sees the pair spread their sustainable bartending gospel to bartenders and boozers alike.
"'Sustainability' is a really shit, cold word, and it's about putting some emotion back into it all," says Griffiths. "We talk about 'zero-waste' and 'sustainability,' and they sound like industrial words, but what we're trying to achieve with Trash Tiki is putting some emotion back in there. If anything, put a bit of anger in there. We're using the hashtag #drinklikeyougiveafuck, getting people to consider what they're actually consuming along the way."
Griffiths and Ramage reckon that an average cocktail bar throws away six to eight bags of organic waste a night, and the same again of used packaging. And when you look at those shitty little paper napkins that most drinks are served on, you realise that this issue needs tackling.
Griffiths and Ramage plan to share information through their website on how to reuse cocktail ingredients that would normally be thrown in the bin. The pair will also travel to cities across the country to demonstrate their methods at bar takeovers.
This could be taking all the normally discarded bits of a pineapple and fermenting them to create a non-alcoholic pineapple soda-style drink called tepache, or taking used coffee grounds and almond croissants that were about to be thrown out by a local cafe and using them to create a delicious, nutty orgeat syrup.
"By using the by-products of other bars or things that would be thrown away, we're not actually bringing in anything new," explains Ramage. "And while that's saving us throwing things away, we're also saving things that would be going in the garbage, which is saving a little bit of money. We're getting more uses out of the same thing."
Griffith adds: "It puts a value against something that as a society we're always assuming is a zero-value product. Look at bars: we're all guilty of just turning round and lobbing stuff in the bin straight away without realising how much flavour we're tossing out at times."
The pair admit that they're unable to completely eliminate waste in bars, but as Griffiths says, "Every little bit counts, and I think something that we've seen again and again is people obsess with the notion that it's got to be all or nothing. If you can't be 100-percent zero-waste, then why even bother? And that's fucking bullshit. If you can make 10-percent difference, that matters so much."
Hailing from Australia and Canada respectively, Griffiths and Ramage were horrified by the the UK's attitude to recycling when they first arrived in the country.
"I was shocked when I came here," recounts Ramage. "The first thing I noticed, because I mean Vancouver's got one of the best recycling programmes in the world I think, but London is terrible. There is separation [of different types of rubbish], but often things get lobbed in the same bin and people don't take care to separate recycling."
There are plans to hit LA and Edinburgh to spread the Trash Tiki sustainable drinking message in the next year, and they're not going to stop with making drinks with reused ingredients—they want to shove the trash in everyone's face, too.
"One of the ideas we have is it's a tiki bar, so you should have fishing nets, so we're actually going to put all waste that the bar produces in a fishing net hanging directly above the bar," Griffiths explains. "Because the biggest thing no one considers is trash is very much out of sight, out of mind. Can you imagine what kind of emotion that would generate when you're drinking in a high-volume cocktail bar?"
It's sure going to be interesting finding out.