from our June 13, 2019 Media Release
When David Meikle and Steve Steffes opened their first restaurant in Petoskey, Tap30, they immediately signed up for Emmet County Recycling’s (ECR) curbside collection service. When ECR piloted collection of food scraps and other compostables from businesses in 2015, Tap30 was one of the inaugural customers. And they haven’t stopped taking on new sustainability initiatives since! The partners soon added Pour Kitchen and Bar, one door west of Tap30 on Mitchell Street. Then Meikle and his wife Missy built The Back Lot, a bar “with food trucks” right behind Tap30 at 425 Michigan Street. Each step of the way, as their enterprises grew, the partners and their staff took action to minimize and recover wastes from the businesses. For this proactive approach to reducing, reusing and recycling, the three restaurants and their owners have been named Emmet County Recycling’s 2019 Recycler of the Year Award winners.
As Emmet County Recycling’s commercial food scraps collection pilot proceeded, ECR staff checked in with the businesses about how it was going. In late 2015, ECR Recycling Outreach leader Lindsey Walker contacted Tap30 sous chef Justin Reyes and chef Brian Roberts to get their feedback. The two chefs reported that they were very food-waste conscious. Walker noted that they used consumer flow charts and tracked trends to be as prepared as possible to control ordering and production based on need, projecting out a year-long calendar based on business and events. Collecting the food scraps for composting (separate from the trash), they reported, was helpful not only because the scraps were composted, but because it allowed them to actually see and track their food waste. And then the chefs went on to ask if their Handy-Wacks basket-liner papers were compostable! (Answer: no, the wax isn’t compostable.)
Since then Tap30 and Pour have continued to carefully analyze their waste and seek alternatives to prevent or recover waste. They serve on real dishes and are always on the lookout for better environmental options. “We were just talking about how we are down to two ‘waste items’ left: adhesive napkin bands and take-out sauce cups. We are actively looking for better alternatives,” said the group’s marketing lead, Sandra Thomas.
“For David and his team, sustainability is not an afterthought,” Walker said. “They were thinking about these issues before they even implemented the businesses.”
The Back Lot, which the Miekle’s built from the ground up offered even more opportunities for such planning. The Back Lot is open year round, but especially features a large beer garden which hosts food trucks in the warmer months. The Lot is a “zero-waste” business, reducing, reusing, recycling or composting over 90% of the waste they generate. The bar uses glassware and offers compostable straws only upon request. From the get go, the food trucks serving at The Back Lot (TBL) have been required to use only compostable serviceware approved by Emmet County Recycling for composting at their Pleasantview Road Drop-off Center. Walker explained, “We have to be careful; there are plastic forks, knives and spoons on the market that claim to be compostable, but which won’t break down in our piles. We ask businesses and events that plan to compost waste with us to check in before they buy ‘compostable’ service ware to make sure they are getting one of the brands we can process. No one wants plastic in their compost!”
As a result of this pre-planning, TBL customers can simply toss their utensils, boats and plates right in the compost bin with any food scraps leftover from their meal. “I don’t want to misrepresent; there is some waste. But for the most part it is just what customers bring in with them, for example, baby food packaging,” said David Miekle.
In building The Back Lot, the Miekles designed in room for recycling infrastructure—a must on the otherwise tight alley—and put in a cistern to store rainwater collected from the roof. The water will be used for their decorative plantings. “And I just got done meeting with a guy to get a quote to do solar on the roof. In the summer we should be able to generate all the electricity The Back Lot uses,” said David Miekle.
ECR asks everyone to help them thank the Tap30, Pour, and Back Lot teams for their sustainability efforts and to congratulate them on their Recycler of the Year Award win.
For more information on Emmet County’s Recycler of the Year Award or to nominate an individual, institution, or business for the award, visit EmmetRecycling.org or call Kate Melby, ECR Communications Coordinator at 231-348-0640.