For the past few months, we’ve been running a pilot program working towards recycling the bags we sell our wholesale coffee in. Recycling the type of bags we use (triple-ply foil) is relatively new, and we plan to grow this scheme as far as we can.
Packaging coffee is somewhat frustrating. For us, the priority is retaining freshness and quality and then you have to make everything else line up after that. For a long time, this meant that the packaging used for great coffee didn’t fit well with recyclability.
Our wholesale customers will remember our short-lived shift to biodegradable bags. These didn’t last long because once in use the maths didn’t add up. If you looked at the bags from a cradle to grave perspective (rather than just in contrast to a triple-ply, foil-lined bag) then they turned out to be a step in the wrong direction. Biodegradable bags often split (which meant replacing the bag and the coffee in it, which is waste, compounded by further shipping), they were put into recycling bins by mistake (and thus that batch of recycling was contaminated), and so we actually felt like we were taking a step back. As a result we moved back to traditional packaging, but we didn’t stop looking for a better way.
As of today, we’re only able to work with wholesale customers to whom we deliver in our own delivery van. We’ve been delivering in reusable crates for a little while now, and we simply ask customers to put all the empty bags back into one of the empty crates we’ll be collecting the next time we deliver.
We want this to succeed so this service is free of charge to our customers, and we’ll also take bags they have from any other roaster (as long as they are made of the same kind of material) – we’ve got bags from over 20 different roasting companies ready to be processed in the next batch! We cover the cost of the recycling here, and it is only really viable because we’re able to collect enough material.
Recycling isn’t perfect. We’re always on the lookout for materials that are more sustainable and that we can genuinely recycle (rather than downcycle, as is usually the case). Quality will remain the priority, but we hope this inspires others to follow our lead. It would be great to prevent tonnes of packaging per year from ending up in landfill.