Making the switch to recyclable coffee bags

May 10, 2022BrewHub


Making the switch to recyclable coffee bags

Managing Director David Scott has set high expectations when it comes to continually improving the sustainable business practices at BrewHub. Chief amongst them is to ensure BrewHub moves quickly to further reduce its burden on the environment and on society – in a way that is authentic and consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the most measurable and impactful steps BrewHub can make for its own business and for our clients, is to reduce the carbon footprint of each cup of coffee and each coffee machine.

To that end BrewHub initiated Project Coffee Bag – to find a coffee bag that is truly recyclable whilst retaining the freshness of our beans and the top-quality brew our clients expect.

 

The project set two main goals

  1. to find an alternative to the traditional coffee bean bags with its foil lining – notoriously difficult to break down and recycle, and
  2. to remain local and find a recycling solution without having to go overseas.

 

One of the challenges with packaging is to keep freshly roasted coffee beans completely airtight and free from puncture, moisture, air, and UV light. We need to prioritise this whilst remaining committed to finding a sustainable business solution. That solution presented itself with a premium EVOH side gusset coffee bag.

We went to extreme lengths to test the bags

BrewHub decided to conduct a ‘controlled experiment’ with some EVOH tester bags and creating two samples. With two batches of beans – one in the new EVOH bags and another in BrewHub’s regular bags, both samples were roasted the same day with the same best before date.

We then sent the new bags on a typical BrewHub ‘coffee bag’ journey – first placed in a box sitting in the BrewHub warehouse and then later riding for two to three weeks in a BrewHub truck.

Six weeks later – the day of reckoning arrived – a blind tasting! A diverse group of BrewHubbers gathered – all regular but discerning coffee drinkers – technicians, General Managers, Client Managers and office-based team members, together with our Master roaster. Each participant was given two coffees to drink, one from roasted beans in the new EVOH bag and the other from the regular sample.

The other variables were also tested – for example the milk drinkers had both their samples with milk and then each participant was asked to vote – which was their preferred coffee? The results were universally the same – the test group couldn’t tell the difference between the two batches of coffee – the new EVOH bag had maintained the same high standard of freshness and taste that our clients have come to expect.

More than just finding the right bag

Having found the perfect replacement bag, our next challenge was to source a partner locally to undertake the recycling. The EVOH material of the bags stands for Ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer and is a flexible thermoplastic which can be recycled. One local Perth company we approached recycles EVOH material but not in commercial quantities and another sends the waste overseas which defeats BrewHub’s ‘local where possible’ goal.

BrewHub became aware of a Perth based new, innovative recycling company Green Machines Lab, who are passionately committed to a sustainable planet. They work to help businesses meet their own environmental goals and also transform recycled materials into new products. Impressed with their thorough approach, Green Machines Lab fully tested some samples of the bags before reporting to BrewHub that the EVOH material is fully recyclable.

Even more encouraging is the news that the new coffee bags can be recycled with our Health, Safety and Environment Committee sourcing local recycling partners in the vicinity of BrewHub in each State. The bags are recycled into soft malleable plastic granules. These granules promise to have a very wide application in the creation of a diverse range of products and items. Green Machine Lab’s innovative thinking and research to create recycled products has resulted in their award as Waste Innovation of the Year 2021 at the Waste Sorted Western Australia Awards.

Finding a coffee bag that delivers the BrewHub signature freshness and quality – that is also fully recycled locally across Australia – is a huge win for us and for our clients.


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