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Cafe scraps grow ideas (and compost)

David-Sivyer-fedback-organic-recovery-hessian-planters. Little eco footprints

Kitchen scraps and coffee grounds - I can't get enough of them. The coffee grounds are fed to my acid-loving blueberry bushes and the scraps go to the chooks and worms, who convert it into delicious eggs and fantastic compost. I've considered asking local cafes and restaurants if I can have their kitchen scraps, so I was interested when I discovered a Hunter Valley business doing exactly that. Feedback Organic Recovery collects waste from cafes and turns it into compost.

David Sivyer collects coffee grounds and food preparation waste from cafes in and around Maitland and takes it to his family farm where it is composted. The compost is used on the farm, in the kitchen gardens of participating cafes, and can also be purchased by the public.

The number of cafes involved in the project is growing. David lists Seraphine Cafe at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Reader's Cafe at East Maitland library, and the Commercial Hotel in Morpeth as his "champions". "They didn't hesitate and enthusiastically jumped on board straight away," David said.

David tells me his partner cafes typically save about half a cubic metre of food waste a month from going to landfill. "Depending on the type of waste, this can be almost half a tonne," he said.

The benefits don't stop there. David maintains a kitchen garden at each of the cafes and promotes their sustainable waste management efforts through a feedback loyalty card. Each time someone buys a coffee or meal at a participating cafe they get a stamp. Collect 10 stamps and you can collect a "budding hessian planter" from the Feedback market stall at the Newcastle City Farmers Markets. The hessian planters are made from used coffee sacks.

Picnic-blanket-made-from-recycled-hessian. Little-eco-footprints.

David, who only recently learnt how to sew, also makes cushions and picnic blankets from the reclaimed hessian.

Educating the community about food waste and gardening is another benefit. Ben Dennis, a student from Newcastle East Primary School, enthusiastically visits the Feedback market stall week after week. Ben developed an interest in gardening and yesterday he and David gave a market stall demonstration on how to grow herbs in "hessian herb hangers".

I love that this business is growing so much more than compost. It's also inspired me to finally find the courage to ask some of my local cafes if I can have their scraps.

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 12th May 2014.