Welcome to Emu Parade, where the idea is simple yet impactful: pick up rubbish, and in return, you’ll get a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Roland is the driving force behind Emu Parade, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to cleaning up Australia’s beaches in exchange for free coffee. He makes his coffee out of Trish, a retired fire engine that’s been converted to run on used deep fryer oil instead of diesel. Roly collects waste oil from restaurants, filters it in his garage, and then runs it through some modifications for it to run Trish’s fuel system.
Emu Parade stands as an extraordinary initiative that we are proud to get behind. As well as being a major sponsor, we’ve also equipped Trish with top-of-the-line machinery, including two La Marzocco GS3s, ensuring a steady stream of cafe-quality coffee at all times.
Amidst his journey facilitating beach clean-ups along Australia's East Coast, we had the pleasure of catching up with Roly for a quick debrief on all things Emu Parade.
Q: Hey Roly, What’s Emu Parade? Give us the full run down on Trish.
A: Emu Parade is my not-for-profit organisation, where I make people exquisite free coffee in exchange for picking up some rubbish. So professional bribery, pretty much, but the good kind. I make coffee on machines that are powered by batteries, on the back of my 1994 ex-RFS firetruck Trish, which I’ve converted to run on used vegetable oil instead of diesel and recharge the batteries while she drives. So Emu Parade uses hospitality to address pollution, powered by community and an abundant hospitality waste stream.
Q: For those who don’t know, what’s the story behind the name, Emu Parade?
A: Emu Parade is what we used to call the cleanup at primary school, everyone lines up and sweeps through the yard together to pick up the rubbish leftover from morning tea and lunch. It’s a great technique for adults at the beach as well.
Q: How long has Emu Parade been in the making?
A: Emu Parade as an idea first arrived in 2019, so about four years ago. This is also the second firetruck I’ve converted for travelling around, giving people coffee for picking up rubbish.
Q: Trish boasts an impressive set-up. Are you qualified in any trade, or did you just learn along the way?
A: Thank you, but eek, nope, not really! I’ve just learned along the way, and have been able to learn enough about electricity, plumbing, diesel engines and general mechanical stuff. My mate Damo is also an old hand at all things tinkering, and he has taught me a lot about a lot.
Q: You’ve been a barista for 14 years, tell us about your coffee-making journey.
A: I fell in love with the art of making coffee the instant I got my first cafe job straight out of high school. I love that there is no end point to be reached, and no definitive answers to a lot of the mysteries between growing cherries and slurping brews, because it all comes back to flavour and perception. My favourite thing about being a barista is the infinite human connection possible in every single cup. I’ve owned two of my own cafes that have both gone well, so Emu Parade is applying the same formula towards mobile and more purpose-driven espresso.
Q: Have you faced any challenges coordinating beach clean-ups?
A: Yeah. It’s more trouble than you’d think convincing the authorities to let me organise cleanups. When I first started in 2019, I got fined for “unlawfully trading” at my local beach, aka not doing things properly. Now, it’s all certified and insured and safe and everything, and I always want to do right by the council. But the red tape can get frustrating when it’s such a simple, comprehensively beneficial community experience.
Q: What do you get up to when you’re not cleaning up beaches and bribing people with coffee?
A: I surf religiously, read, ride bikes and spend time with my family. Lately, I’ve been trying to make some videos to share more about the Emu Parade adventure, so that’s been taking up some time too.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a similar initiative in their own community?
A: Hmmm… start with what really bothers you, then combine it with what you’re really passionate about. ‘Tend to the part of the garden you can touch’. (I think that’s Buddhist or something. I like it)
Q: How do you balance your own personal and professional commitments with your dedication to running Emu Parade?
A: Oh, that’s a really tough one. I don’t really ever switch off because I don’t get to decide when an answer or a solution to some problem will arrive in my brain. But thankfully, I love this project so much that, at the moment, I don’t feel like I have to compromise anywhere.
Q: What’s your coffee setup at home?
A: Aeropress with a Prismo disc is unbeatable.
Q: And, your favourite Supreme coffee?
A: I’m a sucker for Big Joe to start the day, but I also love the 50/50 decaf blend for afternoon flatties.
Q: Smooth or crunchy?
Q: What’s your vision for Emu Parade? Talk us through the next 12 months.
A: A combination of local cleanups around home in the Northern Beaches, and expeditions to more far-flung coasts with more rubbish and fewer people. The top end has some insanely polluted beaches that are hundreds of kms from the nearest town, which I don’t think a lot of people realise. Down the line, I’d love to establish some sort of annual convoy to these places to start making a meaningful dent in the rubbish that’s out there choking some of our most pristine wilderness.
Q: Thanks for your time Roly! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
A: I think that probably covers it! A follow on Instagram and YouTube would be awesome, and then just spreading the word to people who might be interested in joining a cleanup. Coming soon to a beach near you!
Learn more about Emu Parade and see the upcoming clean-up schedule here.
Keep up to date with Emu Parade: @ep.cleanup