Barista Magazine

AUG-SEP 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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use of glassware lends itself to attention on social media, so have fun exploring the possibilities. For shops where glass and porcelain are not viable options, it's still worth considering which materials can be more eco-friendly. How about having a handful of reusable cups at the ready for customers requesting water? Can your location use silverware instead of plastic or wooden stirrers? How about bulk sugar pourers instead of sugar packets? Every little bit counts, and most can even save you money over time. One impactful way to reduce waste is by encouraging customers to bring their own reusable cups, a movement still in its infancy. To motivate customers, consider incentives like discounts, punch cards, or raffl es. Offering a free initial fi ll-up with the purchase of a branded cup could result in a customer advertising your shop all over town. Daniel Demers of D Squared Java in Exeter, N.H., got creative with his shop's "Sustainability Card." "Instead of giving everyone a stamp for every drink they buy, you only get a stamp under one of three conditions: You bring your own reusable mug, you get your drink in a 'for here' ceramic mug, or you bring your compostable cup/lid back to be properly disposed of," Daniel explains. Moving away from disposable cups altogether will take many years, but the process is in motion. A large cultural shift may only be possi- ble if we see a ban on disposable cups similar to the single-use plastic bag bans starting to occur in the United States. Although ultimately rejected due to apparent logistical issues, this year the U.K. did bring to vote a ban on paper cups. Further, the E.U. has vowed to ban single-use plastics, including coffee cups, by 2030. In the meantime, we have to be proactive to offset the billions of disposable items that end up in our landfi lls each year. Many shops opt for recyclable or compostable products for this purpose, but both options have their own unique sets of challenges. The realities of recycling There's a misconception that anything made from paper or plastic can be recycled, but unfortunately, it's not that simple. Recycling, once processed, is considered a commodity on the open market, and is subject to market conditions. Let's start with paper cups. Many people don't realize that while the paper itself is recyclable, the cup is lined with a thin plastic coat- ing, that contaminates the quality of the paper, making it no longer re- cyclable. This also applies to alternative milk cartons, which are made from aseptic packaging, essentially paper, plastic, and metal fused together into three layers. At most recycling centers, coffee cups and milk cartons are fi ltered out and thrown in the trash. Currently no facilities can process coffee cups, and just a handful can process aseptic cartons. When it comes to plastic, not all types are created equal. Which plastics are recyclable (#1-7, see sidebar, "Understanding plastics by the numbers") vary by state, and not many people are aware of what these numbers actually represent. Things like straws, takeaway containers, utensils, and many plastic cups are made from low-qual- ity plastics that hold little to no resale value. Pretty much anything stamped with a 3, 6, or 7 on it is trash. "Aspirational Recyclers" are people who throw pretty much everything in the recycle bin, just in case. Although they mean well, this actually does more harm than good. Even though it might make you cringe, throwing away a straw or nonrecyclable plastic cup is actually the correct way to dispose of the item. Even if your café utilizes higher-quality plastics, they are often sorted out and trashed due to contamination. Residual coffee and food scraps are highly problematic at recycling facilities. As a shop owner, the best thing you can do is personally check with your local waste department to make sure any recyclable cups you use are actually recyclable at the facility your bins go to, and that they're disposed of clean and ready to be processed. Educating customers on which items can actually be recycled, and offering to take their cups back to be properly disposed of, can make a big difference. Understanding composting "I like to think about composting as an under-considered facet within the invention of agriculture" says Julia Brenner, a research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn. "We found food growing in the wild, and then we learned how to cultivate it and grow it on our terms. It stands to reason that we would learn to cultivate decomposition and use it for our benefi t, as well. By just taking the growing part of ecosystems and ignoring the decomposition part, we only benefi t from one side of the natural cycle." Think about it: Our entire industry exists because of a product that is compostable. Currently there's a large demand for chemical fertilizers; meanwhile, cafés, restaurants, and groceries routinely throw away coffee grounds and food scraps that could contribute to nutrient-rich organic farm soil. It's common to assume cups labeled biodegradable or compostable How to start a composting program First, explore composting in your city. Some cities offer composting as part of normal trash pickup. If not, there are plenty of resources online to help you fi nd a pickup service that works for you. There are truck services for cafés with full food programs, and bike services for cafés with just coffee grounds. These companies employ experts who will happily assist you in fi nding the equipment you need (if they don't supply it for you) and determining how to properly store your coffee grounds or food scraps as they await pickup. Next, make it easy for staff and customers to embrace the program. Jayne Merner Senecal of Earth Care Farm in Charlestown, R.I., suggests organizing a visit for your staff to a farm that creates or uses compost. This can be an inspiring and educational opportunity. "It's a very different way to look at the world," she says, "and not the way we think of waste being handled in our society." If done properly, a composting program should add little to no additional work or mess to a barista's day. Issues arise when the compost bins contain garbage. To assist your customers in disposing of their items in the correct place, you'll need clear and simple signage. Other- wise, when faced with three bins, wordy instructions, and a handful of disposables, it can be overwhelming to process which items go where. To help eliminate confusion and bottlenecking at waste bins, try stocking products that are all one type, either recyclable or compostable. People usually register visual cues quicker than text, so signage with images works best. 104 barista magazine

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