Our Planet Hero shines a light on the most inspirational people taking action to protect our planet. Series 1 is sponsored by REN Clean Skincare. In this interview we talk to Douglas McMaster, owner of Silo – the UK’s first zero waste restaurant – to learn a bit more about his business and the inspiration behind it.
Tell us a bit about your restaurant, Silo, and the concept behind it?
Silo is a restaurant that doesn’t have a bin. The world’s first Zero waste restaurant, hopefully the first of many.
You’ve often said ‘waste is a failure of the imagination’. How do you use food and cooking to re-ignite that imagination?
If you consider waste as failure, and then assume the challenge to turn that waste into something precious or delicious; you need to think outside the box. Waste is waste for a reason – its true potential is not immediately obvious.
Could you describe what a sustainable diet means to you?
A sustainable diet is a natural diet. Firstly seasonal, local & organic. Then from farming systems that champion regenerative agriculture with healthy soil and surrounding biodiversity.
Do you eat with a zero waste mindset at home, or is this a different challenge?
Where possible I am zero waste at home, however the home needs a system change to be truly zero waste – I haven’t had time to implement this yet.
When did your interest in sustainability start?
I met an artist called Joost Bakker – He was my primary force of inspiration.
Do you think it’s possible for big restaurant chains and ‘fast-food’ outlets to transition to zero waste?
The whole world could be zero waste with the right system change. With natural materials (compostable plastic) being the linchpin.
Silo has been labelled by some as ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’. How can we make this way of cooking and eating mainstream?
Very good question – I actually have a plan… Although its still under wraps.
What’s the simplest / quickest thing that the food industry can do to cut waste?
Composting all food waste.
‘There isn’t a day at Silo where something doesn’t go wrong’ – how do you cope with these failures and what have you learnt that you could share as advice for other people on a similar journey to eliminate waste?
DETERMINATION. If you want to join me on this mission – be prepared for a tough ride – Progress is messy!
We’re creating a guide and accreditation to help businesses in the hospitality sector minimise their waste. From your experience in the food industry, what do you see as the main barriers to transitioning to zero waste?
The supply chain being industrial – relying on inefficient systems that create waste such as wholesale markets. Relying on plastic, although it’s important to note that single use plastics are an immovable part of the future – what’s important is we swap that out for biodegradable plastic (which doesn’t really exist yet).
You’ve often talked about modern societies’ ‘apathy with nature’. How can we start to re-establish our connection with nature and to value it?
Ooof big question. I haven’t given that enough thought… As much exposure, especially education, as possible. If we all were taught to grow food then we wouldn’t waste it – because we would see it as a miracle!
Do you see a place for plastic in the future of food? If so, how?
As above – absolutely! We desperately need to swap petroleum-based plastic out with a natural plastic.
As individuals and consumers, what can we do to support a sustainable food industry?
Support regenerative agriculture!
We’re creating weekly Spotify playlists for people to listen to whilst litter picking. What are your 3 favourite songs to cook along to?
- People Everywhere (still alive) – Khruangbin
- Having a coke with you – New Jackson
- Ghost town – Kanye West
You can follow Douglas on Instagram at @mcmasterchef and @silolondon, buy his book ‘Silo: A Zero Waste Blueprint’ here and check out the restaurant and reserve a spot here