Australians throw away almost two million tonnes of packaging every year, but one Canberra business is leading the charge in the food industry by attempting to reuse or recycle all its packaging.
Gym Meals Direct (GMD) prepares and delivers pre-packaged meals throughout the greater Canberra region, and also collects the used packaging from customers.
The son of a restaurateur, GMD director Hesh Sandi grew up around kitchens and saw first-hand how much food was thrown away and the amount of packaging that ended up in landfill. So when he and partners Mick Tonna and Mitch Flaherty started their business, sustainability was a key ingredient.
“Everything we use is compostable or recyclable and we endeavour to reuse as much packaging as possible,” Hesh says.
They use packaging and liners primarily made from wool and cardboard or paper-based materials, and collect the used packaging from their clients each week.
“Being a Canberra-based business we have more control over our packaging, so we can re-collect the food boxes, liners and ice packs, which stops people filling up their garbage or recycling bins,” Hesh says.
Every Sunday and Monday the GMD drivers drop off meals around Canberra and as far as Yass, Murrumbateman and Bungendore. They also collect the used packaging which is then sorted and reused or recycled.
Hesh says customers love the fact they can do their bit for the environment and feel good about supporting the local economy while also enjoying the freshest, healthiest food possible.
GMD is doing its bit to reduce food miles by sourcing seasonal produce from local suppliers and using quality Australian ingredients in all its meals.
“Being local allows us to have a more sustainable approach compared to other prepared meal companies,” he says.
“We use fresh ingredients that don’t have to travel as far and, because of that, we can concentrate on making our meals a lot more generous using seasonal, quality ingredients.”
Reducing food waste is of huge importance to Hesh and the team, and one of the main reasons they created a model with an order cut-off time.
“Orders must be placed by midnight Thursday, so we can order the exact amount of produce we need to cook and there’s no food wastage,” he says.
“It’s extremely sustainable compared to your average restaurant, hotel or pub.”
Because orders are placed ahead of time, the company can offer a wider range of meals, including vegan, vegetarian, dairy, gluten and nut-free dishes, as well as varying sizes. All meals are prepared by local chefs and can be delivered to your home or office, or picked up from the GMD warehouse in Fyshwick.
“We use whatever produce is in season and try to make our menu as diverse as possible to give everybody more choice,” Hesh says.
“Because we’re Canberra based – and will remain Canberra based – we can produce a menu that’s a lot larger and fresher than our competitors.”
The chefs prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The summer menus might feature capsicums and leafy greens, while the winter dishes include fresh zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and root veggies.
“All our meat is Australian, and we try to source higher grade beef in particular,” he says.
“You can really notice the quality in our meat. It costs us more, but it tastes better. We don’t go for the usual pre-packaged cheap cuts.”
Buying local and reducing the distance food travels before and after it’s prepared is better for the environment and supports the local economy.
GMD is looking to reduce its carbon footprint even further by replacing its refrigerated delivery vans with electric vans once they become available.
“They’re not available yet, but we cannot wait for EVs. As soon as we can, we’ll be converting,” Hesh says.
Over the past six years GMD has thrown its support behind the Canberra community by working with Australia’s leading food rescue organisation OzHarvest.
“We donate about 100 complete meals every week,” Hesh says.
“Their clients love our meals over other pre-packaged meals. They appreciate that it’s a free wholesome meal, not leftovers, which makes them feel valued.
“We’ve donated tonnes and tonnes of meals over the years.”
Gym Meals Direct offers a convenient and healthy pre-packaged food solution for everyone who wants to simplify their busy lifestyle and improve their health, while also reducing food and packaging waste.