Could your food scraps buy you a meal? While counting out coffee grinds and apple cores at the sandwich counter might get you thrown out of a place, a pop-up restaurant in Austria recently flirted with the idea of converting garbage into culinary currency.
In conjunction with Vienna Design Week 2013, the fleeting restaurant, called Biomat, served dishes such as tofu with Japanese dressing and zucchini pasta for a particular price: compostable waste. Diners were encouraged to bring by their biodegradable trash, which was weighed and assigned an energy value. Biomat provided customers with a voucher equal to the value of the biofuel their waste could be converted into. The voucher could, in turn, be used to purchase a meal.
The endeavor wasn't merely a thought experiment. Diners were served a meal, and their waste was sent off to a local farm, where it was converted into cooking fuel.
Food waste is astronomically high—Americans throw away nearly half of what we buy—and our dependence on carbon-intensive fuels is not doing the environment any favors. Perhaps this could be the beginning of a new model that takes both problems into account? Call it Scrap and Trade.