Loop Growers: re-thinking what waste actually means


“We start by re-thinking what waste actually means and end with farmer-delivered produce to your kitchen.”

Loop Growers is the project of Brisbane's Alice Star and Phil Garozzo. Their vision is simple; they turn cafe waste into compost, which in turn grows food that is delivered back to the same cafe to use in the meals we eat. What they are doing is seriously awesome considering food waste that goes into landfill is not just a wasted resource - it undergoes anaerobic decomposition (because of the lack of oxygen) and generates methane. When released into the atmosphere, methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So keeping this stuff out of landfill is really important. And this is where Alice and Phil come in.

Alice and Phil from Loop Growers 

Their process involves cycling a cafe’s food scraps through local residents’ backyards (or even sometimes the rooftops of the cafes) and back again. Engaging interested locals in his business, who he calls Backyard Partners, he uses their backyards to grow the yield. If a Backyard Partner doesn’t necessarily have a green thumb, Phil and Alice, or one of their Growers, will tend to the garden, and harvest the food to be taken back to the same cafe the yield came from. On a larger scale, he also has two Farm Partners within 30km of Brisbane CBD where he can grow produce. Loop Growers is putting immense value on something that would otherwise go to landfill. Furthermore, when fruit and veggies are delivered to a cafe, they’ll be sure to pick up the cafe’s food scraps, meaning food miles are effectually halved.

“On average, the cafes I deal with produce around one tonne of ‘waste' every month...By taking the ‘waste’ your cafe is producing and turning it into soil, it suddenly becomes an investment in the local community.” – Phil

Not only does their philosophy use permaculture practices and closed loop methodologies, which is what we’re alllllll about here at Seljak Brand, to turn cafe waste into food that can be used by the same cafe, it nurtures the idea of fostering an open community. He has united a community of conscious cafes, their staff and patrons, and this community is growing every week.

A Grower tending to the rooftop garden 9 storeys up at Merriweather Cafe.

Phil and Alice are working with some of Brisbane’s best cafes including Merriweather Cafe, King Arthur and Scout. He is also talking to other bars (Scratch Bar in Milton are giving their peanut shells to the cause) and restaurants to implement the practice in establishments across Brisbane. In the long run, he sees the possibility of creating similar communities in towns and cities around Australia utilising local knowledge to ensure growing patterns and seasons are considered.

Ultimately, Phil and Alice aim to remodel existing economies and establishing new ones on a micro scale, with the intention that local action creates a ripple effect, and that eventually, that change can be realised on a broad scale.