At Dear Green we have committed to a circular waste system as part of Glasgow’s mission to become a circular city! But what does that mean? In this blog post we explain the circular economy approach, what we are already doing and what we plan to do!
Source: Circular Glasgow
What is a circular economy?
To start off let's define the term of a circular economy first: Glasgow has committed to a circular waste management system by 2045 and so have we. The circular economy is a model that keeps everything that is produced in a loop.
Currently, we live off of what is called a linear system, almost everything that is produced becomes waste. This is costing us the earth. So, instead we need to rethink how we can reuse materials and not dispose of them. In a circular economy, resources are being continuously kept in the system and become long-lasting. To quote one of the leading knowledge hubs on the topic:
“Circularity asks us to centre regenerative approaches, and that means addressing the global histories of colonial exploitation and learning from Indigenous values - not just looking for shiny new products!”
In nature, there is no landfill, everything is linked and flows. We want to connect and form infrastructures between us and other companies and consumers, to come together and keep resources in the loop, essentially. Taking circularity seriously, requires a change in beliefs of our economic practices and the design of our supply chain. We considered the life cycle of the conception of our product and how it's treated in a linear waste system.
Recently, ‘circular economy’ seems like it has been picked up as a buzzword by businesses, so the term just gets its real meaning when we make it and implement change - so how have we incited this:
What does circular economy mean to the coffee industry and our business?
As a business we produce quite a bit of waste, some of this is unavoidable but most of it is avoidable! One of the changes we could implement immediately is switching to the waste management company Changeworks. They convert all our recyclable waste and make the same resource out of it again or a new one, but it is not going to landfill! Yey! So for example, our confidential paper waste is being recycled to tissue paper. Our general waste is combusted, which means it is used to produce energy.
But let’s talk about numbers, in 2022, our waste was made of 65% recyclable and 35% general waste, which means we are doing pretty well already. But this is not good enough for us - we aim to push this to an 80%-20% ratio this year, minimising our general waste to the unavoidable.
For January 2023 our recycling rate looked like this:
Circular is also about thinking differently when it comes to waste - it is the idea of seeing our waste as a resource somewhere else and creating constant material flow. This we have done with some of our waste already - one loop we want to highlight here:
A by-product from roasting coffee beans is called chaff or the silverskin of the coffee seed (as seen in the picture below). Coffee roasters need to dispose of but it breaks down easily in compost bins and can be really beneficial as a fertiliser to plants. Therefore we collaborate with local allotment associations and community gardens like the Wash House Garden to help us repurpose our chaff. The Wash House Garden uses our silverskins to help grow produce from vegetables to leafy greens that they supply to local restaurants, such as Mono, who (guess what!?) we also supply our coffee to. What better way to link and support a local circular supply chain. Silverskins can also often be picked up from our roastery for private gardening use, just check out our TooGoodToGo or Gumtree.
Another approach we have implemented is with any leftover coffee beans (which is a rare occurrence!) we offer to the TooGoodToGo network for a discounted price, people can pick up from central Glasgow roastery. It’s a great organisation and a fellow B Corp, worth checking out, especially if you’re on a budget.
An event that we are immensely proud of and probably don’t shout about enough is Glasgow Coffee Festival, the first in the world to ban single-use-cups on site. We also repurpose the materials for the booth build and encourage a zero waste and a circular approach to all festival activities. The next festival is o 13-14th May, you can get your tickets here.
What most small companies struggle with is packaging waste and we have constantly refined our product and processes to have the best possible solution whilst making sure we can still grow our coffee volumes and support more coffee farmers. We but we managed to minimise as much as possible and our journey is ongoing, you can read more about it here. From reusing cardboard boxes and stuffing delivered to us and switching to a reusable tub option for our local wholesale customers to constantly reviewing the materials used in our retail packaging and it’s most user-friendly end of life solution.
As the end consumer the part you play in disposing of packaging or making sure you refill that refillable container is not your only role in the circular aspect of coffee consumption. The spent coffee grounds from your brewed coffee should also be considered. Here are some ideas on what to do with those coffee grounds to repurpose them and reduce your waste at home, giving you a truly circular coffee experience!
- Sprinkle them over your garden or on your houseplants
- Mix your grounds with coconut oil to make an exfoliator
- Add them to your compost bin
- Add coffee grounds to washing up liquid for cleaning grease off your hands
- Mix with water and use as watercolour paint
If you are interested in reading more about the topic, here are the references:
Mayson, I.D. Williams, (2021) Applying a circular economy approach to valorize spent coffee grounds, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 172, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105659.
Wojciech Kębłowski, Deborah Lambert & David Bassens (2020) Circular economy and the city: an urban political economy agenda, Culture and Organization, 26:2, 142-158, DOI:10.1080/14759551.2020.1718148