Restaurant composting program surfaces in Carleton Place

Black Tartan Kitchen Owner Ian Carswell holds an orange pepper ready to be composted outside the fine-dining restaurant in Carleton Place. Photo credit: Jane Hobson.
Posted on: June 29, 2017

Jane Hobson

The amount of weekly waste produced by a restaurant can be astounding, which is why a couple Carleton Place restaurant owners have adopted unique composting strategies to suit their needs.

“I saw a lot of waste going to the garbage so we started composting instead,” said Ian Carswell, the owner of Black Tartan Kitchen, a fine-dining restaurant that opened in Carleton Place in the fall.

Compost is organic matter free of animal products that decomposes and can be used to feed livestock and to fertilize soil for crops. Most restaurant compost comes from the meal-prep stage and rarely from dishes that come back to the kitchen due to the likelihood of cross-contamination with animal products.

Every Sunday, local farmer Peter McGahey of McGahey Farms drives to Black Tartan Kitchen to pick up the bins of organic waste. McGahey is not part of an organized restaurant composting program but Carswell said it’s normal for farms to accept compost if they have a need for it.

“A lot of composting programs in larger cities like Ottawa usually charge a fee for picking up compost so we’re really lucky and thankful that ours is currently free,” said Carswell. He said Black Tartan Kitchen plans to purchase a pig from McGahey farms in the future. “It’s awesome because our compost is actually feeding the pig. It’s the circle of life.”

While Black Tartan Kitchen’s compost pick-up is not an official program in Carleton Place, Carswell wants more restaurants and farmers to get on board. He says a composting strategy is pretty easy to implement. A restaurant just needs a willing local farmer to pick up a few compost bins once or twice a week.

Carswell gives some composting tips for other restaurants who may be interested: use multiple bins with lids, label bins with the restaurant name and address to avoid losing them, don’t fill them too heavy to lift, don’t put meat products or bones in the bins, and store them in a cool, dry place.

“It’s pretty easy once you know the program exists,” said Carswell. He said other restaurant owners can get in touch with him if they want to start composting.

Who benefits? More like, who doesn’t. The restaurant spends less money on garbage bag disposal, the farm spends less money on livestock feed and there is less waste taking up space in local landfills. From a cuisine standpoint, animals that lived — and died — in a stress-free environment and were fed organic food tend to have a better taste and texture when cooked.

“From a business perspective, it’s a no brainer to compost because it’s efficient and costs less money,” said Petra Graber, the owner of a Carleton Place cafe called the Good Food Company. Just a few doors down from Black Tartan Kitchen, the Good Food Company has been composting for the 20 years it has been open. “I didn’t want to be putting heavy food in a garbage bag that just sits around,” Graber said.

Graber’s compost is picked up by her landlord, Ken Bennett. He owns about 200 acres and takes the compost there. “He is the one who has made it possible for me to compost all of these years,” Graber said. “I actually feel less stressed [about the amount of waste] because I know we’re feeding wild animals. They wait for it like a Disney movie,” she laughed.

The goal is to divert restaurant kitchen organic waste from local landfills, Carswell explained. “We’re not forcing it down their throats — no pun intended; we just want restaurants to really think about the amount of waste they produce and what they could be doing with it.”

First published in the June edition of Hometown News.