At least 90% of Americans believe recycling is important, and yet 91% of recyclable plastics end up in a landfill or are incinerated.
These were the findings of a national survey that included nearly 2,500 US adults. That said, the problem seems to stem from a lack of adequate education on recycling and sufficient facilities instead of intent.
Many are unsure of how to separate recycling correctly, which has led to a phenomenon known as aspirational recycling, or “wishcycling”. This refers to the act of putting waste in the recycling bin and hoping it will be recycled, even if there is little evidence to confirm this assumption.
Roughly only 30% of glass, 69% of metal, and 68% of the paper that is sent to recycling facilities get recycled. There are multiple reasons for this, which can range from a lack of return on investment, which makes recycling unprofitable, to items contaminating the recycling waste stream.
As this problem has become more defined, so have the solutions. Coffee packaging return schemes, such as those offered by TerraCycle, are helping to light the way toward more effective recycling.
To learn more about how roasters can benefit from the solutions offered by TerraCycle, I spoke with the Head of Communications at TerraCycle and Loop, Europe, Stephen Clarke about their Zero Waste Boxes for the industry.
What is a coffee packaging collection programme?
The recent drive toward sustainability has been met with a response from the coffee industry, with many packaging manufacturers and roasters now offering fully sustainable packaging.
However, once the packaging has left the roaster, the responsibility of recycling it largely falls to the consumer.
Coffee packaging collection schemes have been developed to mitigate the inefficiencies of existing recycling infrastructure, making it easier for the consumer.
Roasters and coffee shops can incentivise the return of used coffee packaging by setting up collection points.
This enables the empty coffee bags to be sent to facilities that can effectively recycle less common forms of waste, decreasing the likelihood of recyclable materials ending in a landfill.
In essence, coffee packaging collection works to establish a circular economy, reducing the need to extract and refine new virgin materials from the planet.
A circular economy creates a perspective shift where the raw materials needed to produce the packaging arrive from the consumer through returned recyclable packaging.
This avoids the necessity of creating more plastic from raw materials such as natural gas, oil, or plants
That said, one of the obstacles to recycling is profitability. If the cost of recycling is higher than the sale value of the resulting material, it may not be feasible for local recycling companies to cover the loss.
However, there are other solutions. With the aim of “eliminating the idea of waste”, TerraCycle offers a solution in its paid for Zero Waste boxes that can directly counter the negative impact of “aspirational recycling”.
What solutions does TerraCycle offer?
TerraCycle’s recycling solutions are designed to address all the existing pain points of recycling.
The company has taken a unique approach, and through innovation, has addressed one of the largest obstacles to recycling: profitability.
“TerraCycle can recycle those ‘difficult to recycle’ items because we work closely with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process,” Stephen says.
He explains the process begins with their Research and Development (R&D) team: in-house scientists and material application specialists who work across the TerraCycle offices and collaborate with leading universities.
“The R&D team analyses the materials to determine how to process them into something new,” Stephen says. “This includes breaking down the waste, separating it into its building blocks, and then recycling those materials for new applications.”
Notably, TerraCycle offers free and paid for recycling options that tailor for almost anything. The free programmes are sponsored by brands to enable consumers to recycle certain types of waste – for example in the UK Cathedral City for cheese packaging, Colgate for oral care waste, Maybelline for make-up packaging and so on.
The paid option is the Zero Waste Box, and is often used for harder-to-recycle items. The option can be completely customised to suit whatever materials the roaster or coffee shop is trying to recycle.
“A Zero Waste Box is a complete and convenient solution,” Stephen explains. “It includes the storage, shipping, and recycling of a particular type of waste that is not currently recycled through local councils or traditional recycling facilities.”
All roasters would need to do is select the box that suits their needs and fill it with the intended rubbish. This can then be shipped back to TerraCycle using the pre-paid UPS shipping label affixed to the back of the box.
While TerraCycle currently operates in 21 countries, the Zero Waste Box is only available in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
How can roasters benefit from the TerraCycle Recycling Programme?
Sustainability and climate change are topics that gain momentum every year, especially among the younger generations.
In addition, statistics show consumers are more likely to support brands that are aware of social and environmental issues and take the necessary action.
Being active in that space can help emphasise the core values of a coffee shop or roastery. This, in turn, may help inspire customers and other businesses to double down on their sustainability goals.
Consumers want to recycle, but they also want it to be easy. Working with waste collection companies such as TerraCycle allow customers to continue enjoying the beverage they love guilt-free.
By partnering with TerraCycle, Seven Miles provides a free recycling programme for its customers to be able to recycle the brands coffee pods and claims to have saved over 150,000 coffee bags and pods from ending up in a landfill.
TerraCycle and other waste collection programmes offer convenience in being able to throw multiple materials into one box. Furthermore, they take the responsibility of ensuring that it gets recycled.
That said, the added work that goes into the process incurs a cost – both monetary and effort.
However, roasters and coffee shops that partner with TerraCycle to fund a free solution for consumers by purchasing a Zero Waste Box are showing a commitment to sustainability with actions that translate to positive impact.
By also partnering with packaging manufacturers committed to making the coffee industry more sustainable, the roaster is fulfilling a critical role in the chain. They then become the bridge that links the two sides of the industry.
MTPak Coffee offers roasters and coffee shops a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.
We also give our clients complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags.
Our design team is available to help you create the ideal coffee packaging by custom-printing your design using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.
MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.