Joost Bakker's waste-free cafe to close following council compost dispute

Joost Bakker,  owner of Brothl, a zero-waste restaurant, is closing next week after a long running dispute with ...
Joost Bakker, owner of Brothl, a zero-waste restaurant, is closing next week after a long running dispute with Melbourne City Council over their composter being in the laneway outside. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Melbourne's first zero-waste cafe will close its doors next week after a long-running stoush with the city's council over a compost bin.

In a bitter end to the dispute, popular cafe Brothl was last month served with an eviction notice after it refused to pay the City of Melbourne more than $10,000 to store its composter outside.

Brothl is a zero-waste soup eatery that uses the byproducts of high-end restaurants - such as unused meat and seafood bones from Attica and Rockpool – to cook its broth.

Founder and owner Joost Bakker's waste policies have attracted global attention, including a write-up in The New York Times earlier this month.

Previously trading under the name Silo, Mr Bakker established the restaurant in Hardware Street in 2012 after noticing the huge amount of waste generated by Melbourne's hospitality industry.

"My idea behind the business was to showcase that you could have a hospitality business that can have zero waste," the former florist said.

For more than two years, the restaurant's compost machine has been stored in the laneway near the restaurant where wheelie bins are kept.

The composter, which is about 1.4 metres by 2.8 metres, turns food waste into compost, reducing its volume by 90 per cent.

But Melbourne City Council told Mr Bakker regulations prohibited the composter being stored in the laneway unless a contract accepting all liability for the machine was signed and a $12,500 fee was paid.


Mr Bakker refused, arguing the composter took up as much space as a wheelie bin would if the restaurant had one.

He said the council had saved money because rubbishdid not need to be collected from the restaurant.

"In three years, not one wheelie bin has been picked up," he said.

Thedispute came to a head in January when Brothl was served with an eviction notice.

Faced with legal action, Mr Bakker decided to close the cafe.

Mr Bakker said it was especially disappointing because the City of Melbourne touted itself as green and sustainable, even promoting Brothl's zero-waste policy on its website.

"Globally, Melbourne is regarded as at the forefront of sustainability," he said.

"[But] it's the people in the city that are driving it. It's not coming from the City of Melbourne."

Brothl's doors will shut next Saturday.

A City of Melbourne spokeswoman said the council was unaware of the restaurant being handed an eviction notice as this was a matter between the property landlord and the business operator.

She said people had raised concerns to the council over the laneway adjacent to Brothl being blocked by commercial bins and waste from restaurants in the area and that the council has been working with the affected businesses and residents on a solution.

- With Craig Butt