• 11.27.13

At This Austrian Pop-Up Restaurant, You Can Exchange Garbage For Food

Waste has value, and Biomat took that literally.

Vera Wiedermann set up Biomat, a restaurant where you can exchange your waste for fresh food, basically to get people’s attention.


“I wanted to make them aware of the value behind food waste, make them think about what they [throw out], because nutritional value means also energetic value,” says the designer from Vienna, Austria.

The temporary downtown eatery collected waste on site during Vienna Design Week recently, encouraging customers to deposit their food scraps at the front of the building. Every kilogram of garbage was worth one euro ($1.35) in food. “We had a garbage scale which estimates the collected waste’s energy value and converts it into a nutritional value,” she says. “That amount can then be eaten and drunk for free.”

Biomat was located in a fashionable area full of concept stores and small manufacturing facilities, and had 50 seats. “Waste was weighed outside, where we had a big bin for collecting the waste. At the end of the project, we put it all into a rollable composter and rolled it the urban garden the last day.” The garden has a small biogas plant, converting waste to useable methane (which can be burned to make more food). See the slideshow for pictures.

Biomat was just a pop-up experiment–we don’t know if the garbage-for-food model would make economic sense at a real restaurant. But it would be interesting to see. If there’s value in the waste, and an immediate means of extracting it, why not?

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.