In a week when London was awash with art aficionados for the Frieze art fairs and a wide range of art exhibitions and auctions across the city, across in west London the Restaurant Show at Olympia was showing what is new in the world of restaurants and bars, with a small but growing focus on sustainability: reusing and re-purposing vintage furniture and lights by Merchant & Found and Andy Thornton goodbye to polystyrene; single-use and non-recyclable plastics (apart from the drink samples) with long-lasting and biodegradable polycarbonate utensils, glasses and dishes (the problem is being able to tell them apart from the plastic ones) and bamboo and other sustainable containers replacing plastic.
Louise Edge, Head of Ocean Plastics at Greenpeace, writing in this week’s New Statesman reminds us that plastics made from fossil fuels will account for some 13% of our total carbon budget by 2050 if we don’t do something about it and, that the major issue is waste management and recycling – which indeed applies to all our resources. It is therefore good to see companies here giving other alternatives.
Flavoured filtered water by MrFitzAquaSpritz proves that sustainability, in this case achieved by eliminating all those glass bottles, can achieve financial savings as well as environmental, transport and storage benefits and, for those wanting a non-alcoholic cocktails, Kombucha from the Real Brewing Company is a carbonated drinks flavoured with tea that can replace alcoholic cocktails for those drivers and others who want something non-alcoholic that actually has taste.
And, demonstrating that the simplest ideas are often the best – labels from PuraCycle can be used over and over again for food boxes and the like, rather than scraping them off the containers and throwing them away after every use. More financial and environmental savings were on show, but what seemed to be missing was the recycling of waste products like coffee grounds.
A start, with over 20 companies on show with environmental products and services, but more needs to be done and, in discussion with exhibitors, it is the customers who have to drive and accept change, even when the change saves money, as filtered water does rather than transporting millions of bottles across the world. It took people-pressure to eliminate plastic straws, and ‘Hello Straw’ (interestingly part of the Chinese group Dong Dao) shows that straws can be funky, long-use and biodegradable, but there is still a customer perception that bottled waters and bottled beers have better quality and a better and different taste than liquids dispensed on the bar. We have made great strides towards use of tap water in restaurants; customers, restaurants and bars need to do more together.
And, not forgetting what restaurants are all about, the show included the Kikkoman Master Chef competition, one of the highlights of the event.