Intro

Great news - any of the used coffee bags that we have sent out as part of the coffee subscription service can now be returned to us for recycling.

Sustainability is a top priority for us here at Dog & Hat and we always try to avoid using any unnecessary supplies in the business. However, one area that has been troubling us for some time (and is largely out of our control) is the recycling of the used coffee bags themselves.

Our service obviously generates a large number of used coffee bags each month and we have been looking at ways we can reduce our environmental impact in this area. Up to now it has been just too costly for us to provide a solution but we have just partnered with Terracycle to help make this a reality. 

Terracycle ship us a box that we can fill with any type of coffee bag  and then once it’s full, we send this back to them for processing.  The best part is that Terracycle can process all types of coffee bags, including those pesky foil lined bags.

You just need to keep hold of all of your used coffee bags from the subscription and then send them back to us when you have a full box.  Unfortunately we can’t afford to collect these from you but it should only cost about £3.50 for a Royal Mail 2nd Class Small Parcel.  If you live in a local authority that has a comprehensive recycling policy, you may be able to recycle or compost some of the bags locally yourself.

We have planned capacity to deal with recycling of our own bags, but we are also offering to take all coffee bag from any source for an annual fee of £10 per year (for around 70 bags per year).

I think everyone should take a quick look at the Terracycle website, as the work they are doing right across recycling is fantastic to see.

Foil Bags

The traditional foil-lined coffee bags that we’re used to seeing have the key benefit of providing a great oxygen barrier that keeps the coffee fresh but has the downside that the multi-layer laminated structure makes them incredibly difficult to recycle.  This is because you have to spend time, effort and energy splitting the separate layers to recycle them in isolation.  This is where Terracycle come into their own as this they have the capability to undertake this task for us and remove these bags from landfill.

Plastic Bags

An ideal plastic coffee bag is one that is made of 100% plastic meaning it can be recycled fully.  However, some older plastic bags often include a small metal strip within the bag seal which makes it harder to recycle.

Plastic is a complex material though and there are many different types of plastics available.  Many roasters are moving to lighter, fully recyclable bags such as PET 4  or LDPE that are made using less material.  These are the most likely to be taken by your local authority but do please check what is and isn't accepted - especially if you are in Wales as they seem to be leading the way in this area.

A very common bag type for roasters these days is made by Dutch Pack in Holland as it is 100% plastic, CO2 neutral and offers an excellent oxygen barrier.  This type of bag is a composite plastic consisting mainly of LDPE with some PET included as well.  However, this combination makes them harder to recycle locally here in the UK.

Biodegradable Bags

Another sustainable option for coffee bags is to move away from plastic altogether and onto a paper or plant-based material - though historically these bags have not been as good at keeping the coffee fresh.  However, a number of advancements have been made recently and we’re seeing more and more roasters move to them - although many still require the use of industrial composters to degrade.

A common name in biodegradable coffee bags is Biotre, which is a system that uses mainly plant based material - however, the bag valve needs to be removed before the bag is sent to landfill or put in your composting system.  When at landfill 60% of the bag itself will oxo-degrade within 10 years (as opposed to the 1000+ years of standard plastic).  Biotre 3.0 is currently being developed with the goal of being 100% compostable and renewable..

As an aside, we did a small scale test on some compostable coffee capsules a year or so ago where we put three in the composter (and sent some to a worm farm) and they were still around a year later.  They had started to show signs of degrading but nowhere near gone.  We estimated that at 2 a day, our composter would have over 400 plus in at any time and we felt that was a little impractical.

Other Ideas

We love to hear your creative ideas for re-using the coffee bags, and below are just a few that we've come across.

Re-use the bag

Especially with the Dutch Pack we tend to keep a few empty bags here for when we share coffee with other people.  We’ve even filled them with the kid’s popcorn for a picnic in the past.

For the Gardeners

The foil lined bags are really strong and we’ve used them to store harvested seeds and also, if you cut the top off, you can use them as planters.

For the Crafters

There are some great examples on Pinterest of people sewing bags together to make shopping bags - it’s something I might try sometime… not today, but one day.

DIY

Yep, we do also store raw plugs, screws, nuts and bolts in used coffee bags - our house really is a shrine to recycled coffee bags everywhere you look.

November 09, 2020 by Dave Morgan