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- SIMPLE STEPS TO REDUCE SINGLE-USE FOOD PACKAGING
Slashing costs and minimising single-use food packaging has never been more important. Follow these simple steps: 1. Thoughtful assessment Begin by assessing your current single-use food packaging. Record the types and quantities of items used along with associated expenses. 2. Menu optimisation Examine items for opportunities to reduce packaging. Question if some items are overly packaged; for instance, could thick sauces be directly poured into takeaway containers to eliminate the need for additional sauce cups? 3. Guide sustainable choices: Latte Levy Implement a 'latte levy' or surcharge on single-use items. This gentle encouragement directs customers toward reusable alternatives while positively impacting your costs. Consider starting with a surcharge for single-use cups for in-house consumption. 4. Elevate the dine-in experience Enhance the dine-in experience by offering washable cups and reusable cutlery, introducing loyalty programs or specials for dine-in customers, and offering table water as a sustainable alternative to single-use bottles. 5. Rethink default practices Challenge traditional norms by reevaluating the automatic provision of cutlery, straws and lids. Ask customers if they need these items before handing them out, leveraging the influence of your staff. 6. Staff empowerment Educate and involve your staff. We find many baristas care about the environment - their support in advocating for reusable alternatives and reduced packaging will resonate positively with your customers. For example, your staff can ask the customer "did you bring your reusable cup today?" 7. Manage visibility Limit the visibility of single-use items like straws and cutlery to discourage unnecessary use. A simple 'out of sight, out of mind' approach can help curb their usage. 8. Embrace reusables Explore durable, branded reusable cups and containers to offer as premium choices. Encourage customers to take the initial step of buying a reusable cup from you by offering a free coffee with the purchase. Put these cups near the POS front and centre! 9. Bring your community along Your community looks to you as a guiding influence. Showcase your commitment to sustainability on your menu, promote reusables - including when you put images on your socials, praise your customers when they bring a reusable cup or container! By following these steps, you'll significantly reduce your reliance on single-use food packaging, resulting in cost savings and environmental responsibility. Take these steps gradually, experiment, and expand your efforts! We're cheering you on. Want to Dive Deeper? If you're one of our members, reach out to us for support and further guidance. We'd love to help you!
- CREATE A REUSABLE CUP WORKFLOW IN 5 EASY STEPS
Reusable cups are great for your sustainable business, but there are practicalities of incorporating them into your busy cafe. Here are some easy tips from some of our 'Champion' cafes. 1. The cup is presented dirty You don’t have to accept a reusable cup that looks or smells dirty: "I politely say no, and take the opportunity to explain why - that their dirty cup can contaminate our other surfaces, and washing takes more time which creates more cost and longer wait times for other customers." Land & Sea, Tasmania Showing a customer somewhere that they can rinse their own cup, like a nearby sink, might help. You have no responsibility to wash a customer’s cup, but some cafes choose to: "I rinse it under hot water at the machine. It takes 30 seconds." Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth “I offer to clean their cup, but they wouldn't receive a BYO discount. I'd advise their coffee would take a little longer while we ensured their drink was served hygienically.” The Foodprint Experience - Adelaide Tips: Having a few cups on hand that people can borrow means you can offer an alternative option. This can be in the form of a simple mug library. You can also use signage and socials to remind your customers to bring their cups in clean. 2. Matching the cup to the order The variety of cups can be a challenge, but the cafes we spoke to said it was all about having a system: ‘We use a chalkboard pen to write orders on mugs." Sipping Duck, Cairns “We write down the order by hand on a ticket and describe the cup, e.g. ‘latte/grey.” Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth The POS is a great place to start adding extra details: “We have modifiers in our POS that include the coffee order, the milk they choose, if it’s takeaway and the colour of the cup. We then line up the cups to correspond with the dockets.’ Hank’s Cafe, Perth Tip: Encourage your customers to write their name on their own cup. 3. Which lid goes with this cup? "We tell the customer to hang onto the lid." Hank’s Cafe, Perth "They hold onto the lids, so we don’t mix them up or lose them into our own stock." Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth A bonus is that the customer can take a sip before putting the lid on if it is a little full. Tip: If the customer steps away, some cafes place a clean coaster over their customer's coffee to keep it hot. You can even write the customer's name on it! 4. Volume control Every cup is different and it can be difficult to know what size it is. Take the guesswork out - ask the customer what they want: "Make the milk for the coffee, not the cup. If it’s short, it’s easy enough to explain that it’s due to the different cup." Hank’s Cafe, Perth "We train our staff in portion control, so they use the correct amount of milk for the coffee." The Foodprint Experience, Adelaide "I ask them what size they’d like, and if they order a medium but the cup is large I ask ‘do you want me to fill it halfway?’ If they say no, fill it up, I tell them ‘that would be a large, do you want a large." Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth 5. There’s a queue out the door! Help! With a simple system in place it’s possible to stay cool even when it gets busy: "You just need a convenient place to line up the orders." Hank’s Cafe, Perth "Line up at the counter with a docket and description." Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth "Busy is busy! It's no different to lining up 10 shots of coffee in single-use cups to BYO cups. Placing the docket with the cup ensures no mix ups." The Foodprint Experience, Adelaide. Final thoughts on reusable cups from our members "I just started with a handful of cups as an offering and people loved it. Then, after COVID, we got rid of disposables. We picked up more customers since then, I’d say business has increased by 10%. So other cafes should give it a go and see." Inner Bean Coffee Van, Perth "We sourced some mug library cups from the op shop, which is just a win-win to us. We introduced a surcharge on single use takeaway, and there was a positive reaction to that. People do like it! But a bit of banter helps: ‘haven’t you got your cup today?' when people forget, for example." Hank’s Cafe, Perth Our reusable tips Only promote reusables - including when you put images on your socials. Do not promote single-use cup litter in your tempting photos! Praise the customer when they bring their cup in. "Nice keep cup! Let me give you a discount for your effort". "You don't have to pay the single-use surcharge. Yay!". Educate customers so they can make a conscious choice based on understanding the price of single-use cups both to the cafe and community. Encourage customers to take the initial step of buying a reusable cup from you by offering a free coffee with the purchase. Put these cups near the POS front and centre! Offer multiple solutions - encourage reusable cups, advocate ‘going lidless’, include a mug library, create space and encourage dine in. Include reusable cups on your POS so you can track their use and see the impact of any discounts or single-use surcharges. Speak to your staff and listen to their ideas, many baristas think about the coffee sector’s impact on the environment. Use signage to help customers know how to present their cup - use signs like this from our friends at UYO NZ If you'd like to download any of our free, printable posters, go ahead! Finally, if you're located within one of our Plastic Free Places communities please join us - we'd love to support you.
- THE LAWS ON ACCEPTING BYO REUSABLES
Information around safety and regulations on accepting BYO reusables from your customers. What is 'reusable' food ware? There is currently no strict guidance on what is considered reusable in Australia. We believe that a reusable food ware item includes any food or drink receptacle that is made for, or capable of, multiple use, where such multiple use will not compromise the integrity of the product or make it unable to be washed via sanitary processes. By contrast, a single-use product is typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before being disposed of. What is the law on accepting reusable food ware? Legally in Australia, food safety matters relating to packaging are contained in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code- Standard 3.2.2. The Code requires food businesses when packaging food to: only use packaging material that is fit for its intended use, only use packaging material that is not likely to cause food contamination, ensure food is protected from contamination during all stages, not reuse single-use items (noting the code does not define a single-use item). Therefore, accepting reusable cups and containers from customers is allowable under The Code, providing these are suitable for use and clean, and not designed for single use. Will accepting reusables increase the risk of food contamination? There is NO evidence of this. If a reusable container is clean, then it should be considered the same as a single-use item. Can I be fined for accepting reusables? No. There is currently no legislation or regulation in any state or territory in Australia that can be used to fine a business for accepting reusables. Do I have to accept reusables? No. A business can refuse reusables if they choose to, but equally a customer can choose to go to a business that does allow them. Increasingly customers are choosing to frequent businesses that are more reusable-friendly. Do I need an onsite dishwasher to accept reusables? No. Under the The Code Appendix 6: Cleaning and sanitising surfaces and utensils, a dishwasher is not required. Cleaning and sanitising can be done manually (e.g. using sinks), or using dishwashers or other specialised equipment. Therefore, as long as there are appropriate sinks and food safe washing/sanitising substances available, then reuse is legally permitted. Some local councils may have requirements around this before issuing food licenses however, so it would be worthwhile checking in with your local council. Ways to mitigate risks and address your concerns Get in touch with your local council and speak with the relevant food health and safety officer. They should be able to direct you to the legislation and ease your concerns. Only accept clean reusables - this is a rule of thumb and cancels out issues surrounding potential contamination. Only accept reusables that are genuinely ‘reusable’ - this way you can be sure that the material is made to be washed, withstand heat and hold food/drinks safely. Sanitise BYO reusables in house - this can be done quickly and efficiently by having a vessel on hand with food grade sanitiser, whereby the reusable item is placed in the solution before receiving its food or beverage. Encouraging BYO reusables with your customers Your customers may have the same concerns as you, unsure whether reusables are Ok and if you accept them. Let them know you support a culture of reusables and encourage them to bring their clean BYO cups and containers. You can do this through signage, media/social media promotions, and just chatting with them about it! We have some great signage options you can download for free.
- MAKE YOUR OWN NUT & PLANT BASED MILKS
Alternative milk varieties almost always come in UHT 1L containers or ‘tetrapaks’. Tetrapacks are a composite material, containing paper board, foil and plastic, making them very difficult to recycle. Not only this, but many of these ‘healthier’ alternatives are laden with suspect ingredients, with minimal information. For these reasons, more cafes are making their own nut and plant based milks. It's not hard, though does require a bit of organisation. Here we run you through the steps. Things to consider before you get started Not all milks are the same - some require a lot more preparation and time. You may decide that making some varieties in house, and sourcing others externally, is right for you. You certainly don't have to commit to all or nothing, especially when you start. In the lead up to switching over, take note of how many tetrapaks your business is going through per week as this number will be helpful when determining quantities and limiting waste. Consistency is key - be sure your staff follow a strict recipe and process so that the milk comes out the same each time. Be sure that the glass jars you use to store the milk in are sterile - if they aren’t, the milk will spoil quickly. It is also important to consider what nuts and plant based materials you are using. Conventionally grown almonds and macadamias are sprayed heavily with pesticides and almonds particularly require large volumes of water to grow and harvest. They are also often packaged in single use plastic bags - therefore researching and sourcing the ingredients in important. How to make some of the more popular milk choices ALMOND MILK The process starts with soaking almonds overnight in cool water - in the fridge. Drain the water out and add the almonds to a blender along with fresh filtered water and a pinch of salt. For large quantities, this is a job best left to the chefs as they have the experience of working with large quantities of prep efficiently. After blending the mixture for 1-2 minutes, pour the milk through a nut milk bag or ultra fine sieve into a mixing bowl/bucket. Be sure to thoroughly squeeze all of the liquid. For ease of use, the ‘milked’ liquid can then be poured back into the rinsed and cleaned blender (which has a pouring spout) then decanted into sterilised glass bottles. Alternatively, use a ladle or measuring cup with a spout to pour the milk directly from the mixing bowl/bucket into the sterilised bottles. Quantities 1 cup raw almonds to 4-5 cups of filtered water. Do some experimenting with quantities as changing the ratio of almonds to water will simply change the creamy nature of the final product. How long does almond milk last? DIY almond milk can last 4-5 days. How long it lasts will depend on a variety of factors such as how well you sterilize your equipment, the freshness of your ingredients, and the temperature of your fridge. If it sours quicker than this, your jars may not be adequately sterile or you may have soaked the almonds at room temperature rather than in the fridge. You will know when it has gone bad, it will be sour and have a very obvious ‘off’ taste. It may also begin to separate and form clumps. MACADAMIA MILK Follow the same steps for macadamia milk as for almond milk, the only differences being: Macadamias only need to be soaked for 1-2 hours in cool water Quantities:: 1 cup of raw macadamias to 3-4 cups of filtered water How long does macadamia milk last? Follow the same hygiene/sterilisation steps for longer lasting milk. Macadamia milk should last 5 days in the fridge. OAT MILK Making oat milk is easy and doesn’t require any pre-soaking. It is made by simply adding oats and filtered water to a high-speed blender on high for 30-45 seconds. Unlike nut milks, oat milks need to be strained through a thicker cloth rather than a nut milk bag, as they let too much pulp through. Once strained follow the same decantering process as per the almond and macadamia milk instructions Quantities 1 cup rolled oats to 4 cups of filtered water. Some tips Don’t over-blend as the oats can get really slimy Don’t soak your oats as this will also make them more prone to sliminess Make sure the added water is cold - lukewarm or hot water will also create a slimy texture Strain the liquid twice to remove any excess starch How long does oat milk last? Well sealed and refrigerated oat milk should last about 5 days. Similarly to almond milk, you will know it has gone bad by taste and smell. There are of course, a bunch of other nut and plant based recipes out there to follow. You will know what varieties are the most popular at your cafe and can accommodate accordingly!
- CREATURES OF HABIT, REMEMBERING OUR REUSABLES
Are you a creature of habit? Perhaps you commute to work on your bike, keep your shopping bags in your car or have a water bottle in your bag at all times. Habits are things we do automatically, without too much thinking. They help us save cognitive energy (which we have a very limited amount of) so we can focus on more complex things like performing our work duties or cooking a meal. Whether you consider yourself a creature of habit or a ‘go with the flow’ type, we can all benefit from forming good habits. Let’s say that you want to ensure you bring your reusable cup with you every time you leave the house. Here's how best to form this new habit: Start with a cue Every habit starts with a cue, something that reminds you to do what you want to do. With the case of a reusable cup, it’s a good idea to put it somewhere where you can see it. Maybe it’s on the kitchen bench, next to your keys, backpack or front door, or a post-it note on your fridge. It’s important to find what works for you. Keeping it in the back of the cupboard, unfortunately, will not do the trick. Repetition Keep at it! They say that habit forms in 21 days – that's not entirely true, but the principle is right. The more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. Reward The third step is reward. It can be anything that feels rewarding to you - getting a thank you from your barista, a warm feeling of saving that single-use cup from landfill or even getting yourself a cookie to go with that cup of coffee. If it makes you feel good, it works. The more you do the habit, the less reward is going to be needed – so don’t worry about spending a fortune on cookies. Support your new habit The environment around us also plays a big role. If the cafés you're frequenting do not accept reusables, you're unlikely to keep using your cup. If you support businesses that encourage your BYO cup, have reusable systems and mug libraries, it will definitely help you on your journey to habit land.
- CATERERS PLASTIC FREE GUIDE
This guide is for our catering friends out there to achieve less plastic waste, more reuse and greater innovation! When it comes to eliminating single-use items, it's important to apply the waste hierarchy of avoid, reuse, switch - in that order. This means we should be looking for ways we can reduce and reuse, before looking for another single-use alternative. Here, we guide you on how this hierarchy can be applied to the most common single-use catering items: Containers and cling wrap for transporting The safe transportation and display of food is important for obvious food safety reasons. This is why all too often caterers rely on plastic cling wrap to transport and serve their food. AVOID/REUSE Opt to use reusable containers to transport items in. Find ones designed to stack on top of each other, making them more secure. Caterers who utilise this method at events often include a bond-like deposit on the containers. Once the event is completed, the catering company can retrieve the reusable items and refund the deposit to the event organiser. Stainless steel and sturdy reusable plastic options like the ones below can be purchased from many hospitality suppliers. You may also be able to hire them from party hire companies who can drop off and pick up the items from the event site, or the caterers kitchen. SINGLE-USE ALTERNATIVES Where reusables are not viable, brands such as Biopak or Greenmark have a range of compostable food containers and trays that are certified under Australian home and/or commercial composting standards. Look for ones with lids to avoid the use of cling wrap. If a single-use wrap is deemed absolutely necessary, there are some Australian certified home compostable cling wraps on the market, such as Great Wrap. These can only be used to wrap around cold food. Aluminium foil can also be used - but look for recycled (not virgin) foil to minimise environmental impacts. Tip: recycle foil by scrunching together until it is larger than a fist and put it in the recycling bin. Plastic serving trays AVOID/REUSE Use reusable trays or breadboards. Look for options that store flat or stack well. For ease and to save double handling and extra wash-up, containers that the items are transported in could also serve as serving items. These can be returned to you after the event. SWITCH Look for home compostable paper or bagasse (sugarcane) trays that are certified under Australian home and/or commercial composting standards (with home compostable preferred). Napkins may viable for serving some items. Plates, cups and bowls REUSE Utilise reusable items to serve food on where possible. These can be purchased, hired, or in some cases the venue may have these available. SWITCH When reusables are not viable, look for compostable varieties made from paper, palm leaf, pine shavings or bagasse (for plates & bowls), or paper with a bioplastic lining (cups). Look for compost certifications and preference certified home compostable items. Napkins may be be able to be used instead of plates for some items. Cocktail skewers AVOID Decide whether you actually need cocktail skewers? SWITCH If completely necessary, the product should be made of 100% bamboo or wood (toothpicks can make a good option) and be home compostable. Avoid decoration on the top as these are often plastic. Look for sustainably sourced items. Sauce cups AVOID Depending on the type of event and food being served, sauce could go directly on the food item or plate. Have a condiment station for this purpose (at larger events, have several stations to avoid queuing). Include salt and pepper. REUSE Washable pots and small bowls can be used (these can double up as canapé serving bowls also). Event hosts can be advised that these are to be kept for washing along with the other reusable items. SWITCH Several packaging brands now make certified home compostable sugarcane bagasse sauce pots in 30-90mL sizes, some with bagasse lids, although generally lids are not required unless it is a very thin dressing. Wood (pine shaving) is also an option - look for sustainably sourced wood though. Cutlery AVOID/REUSE Cutlery can often be avoided depending on what food is being served and what type of event it is. You could provide paper napkins instead. SWITCH When reusable is not viable and cutlery is actually required, switch to FSC certified wooden varieties. Cocktail forks or toothpicks are the cheapest option. Avoid alternatives made from CPLA or cutlery that appears to be plastic but is labelled as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ (most states have banned these). So there we have it, a simple catering guide to minimise the plastic waste associated with your operations. Always remember to keep in mind avoid, reuse, switch, in this order when making your choices. Please note: This information is simply to help you identify products. We don't recommend one product over the other and we don't benefit commercially from any brands or products we list.
- HOW TO SET UP A WATER REFILL STATION
Download this guide as a PDF Factsheet A water bottle refill station in your business highlights your sustainability commitment and supports a culture of reuse in your community. It can also increase loyalty, increase your customer base (especially if you promote it) and you can monetise it by charging for refills and selling reusable bottles. We've been setting up refill networks across Australia and have put together this guide of options for establishing your station, as well as some key considerations for success. Refill station options WATER JUG Minimal upfront cost May be filtered or unfiltered tap water Suitable for counter service only Considerations Staff to refill or prepare multiple jugs Staff to prepare and refill ice Space on counter or table Space in existing fridge WATER CONTAINER Minimal upfront cost ($20-50 from homestores) Stand optional - less preferred for safety reasons Suitable for counter and self-service May be filtered or unfiltered tap water, or branded water Considerations Staff to refill or prepare multiple containers Staff to prepare and refill ice Space on counter or table Staff/customer safety when refilling WATER COOLER Barrels can be delivered by a branded water company and refilled and reused Typically there is hire charge for stand (refundable) and costs per barrel Considerations Space Minimal staffing needed for upkeep Staff/customer safety when loading barrel Upfront costs May be able to charge customers for refills BENCH TOP WATER FILTER A range of options at low upfront costs ($100 - $250) are available from hardware stores or online Does NOT require installation by a plumber Considerations Connects to existing tap, so will need to be within close proximity to water infrastructure Requires minimal bench space Ongoing filter replacement, costs vary by brand Suitable for refilling reusable table water bottles PLUMBED TAP May be counter service (staff controlled) or self-service depending on placement May be filtered, chilled or unfiltered water Variety of tap styles and prices available Considerations Needs connection by a plumber Space/access considerations if self-service No requirement for staff to refill May be able to charge customers for refills Suitable for refilling reusable table water bottles FOUNTAIN WITH BOTTLE REFILL TAP May be counter-service (staff controlled) or self service, depending on placement Considerations Connects to existing tap, so will need to be within close proximity to water infrastructure Higher upfront and ongoing maintenance costs, including refrigeration and filtration Customer refill safety inherent in design May be able to charge customers for refills Suitable for refilling reusable table water bottles ON-TAP WATER SYSTEM A variety of branded system are available including Purezza, Verve Water and Zip Water - contact their Head Office for local supplier details Connects to existing water infrastructure Considerations Monthly rental or outright purchase options available, including maintenance Optional chilled, filtered and/or sparkling water Can charge customers for refills Often accompanied with branded reusable table water bottles LOCAL PLUMBING COMPANIES Local plumbers and water filtration companies offer a range of options to suit your requirements & budget Key considerations for success Budget/costs By far the cheapest option is to provide refills straight from your tap. However, a refill station is more successful when it is attractive to use- this could mean a container or jug at the very minimum. Consider other costs, such as staffing, time and resources and ongoing maintenance. Attractiveness Having a refill station that is attractive to use is the key to its ongoing success. By this, we don't just mean it's nice to look at (though that's a good start). Thanks to clever marketing from beverage companies, tap water can bring up negative perceptions on quality. Informing customers about where your water comes from (whether tap or not) provides transparency to overcome barriers. A sign outlining the type of refills offered will suffice, whether the station is visible or not. You can also offer filtered tap water, chilling it and/or making it sparkling. Access and safety Ensure your refill station is located in a visible, safe and accessible location, considering the needs of staff to maintain it, as well as customer access and safety. Ensure refill stations are secure and at an appropriate height to support refills to minimise the risk of bumps and spills. Hygiene You may be concerned about maintaining hygiene around refill stations. A ‘no touch’ policy between tap and the bottle could be adopted, or the station could be staff controlled. Choosing taps which easily support contactless refills can assist. Counter or self-service The advantage of counter-service is that you control and monitor access, ensuring a high standard of hygiene and the ability to charge for refills. The downside is staff time to provide this. Self-service will require space with easy access, and hygiene may be less in your control. Pricing structures (free, chargeable and/or customers only) Many cafes already provide free table water for dine-in customers, but may sell single-use packaged water for takeaway. You can support free refills for your takeaway customers, and/or sell reusable bottles with free refills in store. Alternatively, you could charge for all refills at an affordable rate, whether BYO or bottles purchased in-store. This is more viable if you provide chilled, filtered or sparkling water. Selling reusable water bottles in-store There are many options, such as stainless steel, glass or plastic (although this is less preferred). These can be branded or unbranded. A few options offered at different price points is more attractive for purchase. A very simple option is to purchase plain glass bottles from commercial hospitality or homeware stores for a few dollars and sell these at a reasonable price point, encouraging your customer to reuse . Encouraging reusables Ensure to sign your station properly to encourage your customers to utilise it - we have free signage you can download. Download this guide as a PDF Factsheet Please note: we don't benefit commercially from any brands or products we suggest.
- HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PLASTIC FREE MOVEMENT
We know that change starts with the individual, that collectively, when positive action occurs, profound shifts are created. Our Plastic Free Places program focuses on the role that businesses play in creating change around single-use plastics in communities, but what about the role of the individual? Within each of us there is the powerful ability to help shape how businesses operate. Remember what Margaret Meade said: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” So if you’re reading this and are feeling inspired to actively engage in your local plastic-free movement, then here are some actions that you can take to start supporting the cause, today. #BYOmugshot Like it or not, social media reigns supreme these days. For all of its flaws it can also be a wonderful tool for inspiring action and using a public platform for good. Posting photos on social media of single-use items such as coffee cups or plastic water bottles, is detrimental to the movement away from a single-use society. Such photos proliferate the use of these items by normalising that they are OK. On the contrary, posting photos that highlight the use of reusables suggests to the audience that this individual cares, that they are aware of current issues and are willing to make personal changes for the greater good. People with significant social media profiles are of particular interest - when they share environmentally positive imagery, there are positive flow on effects to those absorbing what they’re seeing from those that they look up to or are inspired by. Share your journey on social media Are you someone that shops at the bulk food store, supports the growers market and wouldn’t be caught dead with a single-use coffee cup in hand? Do you frequent local cafes and restaurants due to their ethos? If you believe you fit this mould then firstly, well done, the world needs more people like you. Secondly would you consider sharing your journey on social media? It could be as simple as posting a story of your plastic-free pantry, tagging your favourite business who supports reusables and reduces plastic and waste, or you could share posts of people and businesses with whom you resonate. The thing is, you never know who is watching from the fence, there are most likely people out there in your network who are inspired by YOU but who are overwhelmed about knowing where to start with their plastic-free journey. Support businesses who are taking action on plastic For some businesses, taking action on plastic is a huge move. Plastic is cheap, accessible and unfortunately incredibly versatile. For business owners it ticks many boxes, until it doesn’t and the awareness of just how toxic and detrimental plastic really is overrides its conveniences. By supporting businesses who are taking steps to reduce their plastic footprint, you are supporting the movement away from a single-use society. Be sure to frequent these venues and let them know that you are grateful for all that they are doing. If you live within one of our Plastic Free Places communities, you can access our directories to find businesses who have already begun their plastic free journey. And if your favourite cafe is not a member of ours – maybe they are not aware of our program! Let them know that we are here to help, they can join us for free. We can be a wonderful tool to assist businesses navigate the complexities of the packaging industry. If you’re located outside one of our communities, your voice is equally as important. If you happen to notice that a cafe is doing great things, be sure to let them know. You can also direct them to our resources page where we have heaps of guides to help assist them on their way. Write to your local councillors Your local councillor is there to represent you - writing to them about changes you would like to see is an excellent way to highlight how council can be involved - they can work towards enforcing local plastic bans, be positive influencers, provide resources to assist businesses and engage the community on educational aspects. It’s even better if you can get some friends involved – the more that voice their concerns, the more powerful the statement! Overall, don’t be afraid to speak up and challenge the current single-use society narrative. If you’re feeling fed up with how things are, that is powerful and is how change is created!
- AVOIDING PLASTIC IN YOUR TAKEAWAY ORDER
Traditionally, takeaway has meant more flimsy plastic containers than you could poke a stick at! But times are changing and it’s up to all of us, whether as the customer or the business, to make our takeaway experiences as enjoyable and environmentally friendly as possible. When ordering your next round of takeaway, here are some simple tips to keep in mind to ensure that your meal is more food than plastic. 1. Bring Your Own (BYO) packaging Establishments set up for takeaway are also quickly adapting to be BYO friendly. You simply need to ask (which is the scariest part) and once you take the leap it gets easier every time. If ordering a meal on the phone, mention that you’d like to bring some containers. Ultimately, this saves the business money, so it's also a win for them. BYO is particularly important at venues who are having difficulty transitioning away from plastic packaging. Such actions over time can influence these business owners to adopt more sustainable options. Note that it is perfectly legal for a business to accept clean containers but only if they are designed to be reusable. Containers designed for single-use plastic cannot be accepted. However, businesses have every right to refuse any container if they choose. Always remember your BYO coffee cup and encourage friends and family to follow suit. 2. Spend your dollars where your ethics align Support venues who encourage BYO cups & containers and/or provide reusable swap networks. Swap networks, such as Green Caffeen, Huskee Swap and Returnr are getting more popular as an increasing number of venues are introducing them. At the very least, packaging should be compostable and certified as such under Australian Composting standards AS5810 (home) and AS4736 (industrial). Sustainability is becoming a priority for more people, and when businesses see the desire from customers to adopt better practices then it is more likely that they will rise to meet the demand. 3. Reduce unnecessary plastics (your takeaway checklist) Obviously we cannot always be prepared with our BYO items. If you find yourself in this situation, do your best to minimise packaging as much as possible, especially if friends or family are yet to begin a plastic reduction journey, as any suggestion could be a catalyst to ignite some valuable behaviour change. Where relying on single-use: “No straw please” Be quick off the mark to mention that a straw is not needed, have it be the first thing that you say. Many venues will put straws in drinks by default before you even get the chance to suggest otherwise. “No cutlery please” The same is true of items such as cutlery - often food is being taken home or back to the workplace to be eaten, where reusable cutlery is plentiful. “No lid please” If you know that a takeaway meal or drink will be consumed immediately, request that it comes without a lid. "No bag please” Be sure to request your meal comes without a plastic bag (especially) or any bag really, bring your own like you would to the supermarket. Can you combine? Ask for your whole meal to be packed in one container, i.e. meals like rice and curry often come separately but could all be packed together in one, bigger container. How do you want sauce? Ask for condiments to be included in the main container of a meal. Individual sauce cups are not always necessary. When making requests, remember to please be friendly and diplomatic. Show your support to businesses who are making positive changes as well as encouraging those who are a slower off the mark. They care what you think, so this can be a great way to encourage them to keep going!
- BUYING COFFEE BEANS TO USE AT HOME? HOW TO GO 'BAGLESS'
As every coffee drinker knows, there exists a loyalty to a small number of cafes in any given community. Sure, you may frequent a different cafe on occasion, but generally speaking, us humans are creatures of habit. Despite this, sometimes it's nice to make a coffee at home, you save money and whilst not being as delicious an experience, it's hard to beat coffee in bed, right? For this reason, many of us also purchase retail packs of coffee from our favourite local cafe for home brew. But with that comes the associated single-use packaging, a wasteful item that has typically been difficult to address. Single-use coffee bags are generally not recyclable or compostable (not without disassembling them anyway) and with other options available, do we really need single-use anyway? We are here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be! In our guide on this topic for businesses, we outline how cafes are rising to the challenge of reducing single use coffee bags by ordering their coffee beans in bulk reusable tins. According to some roasters, this practice saves hundreds of single-use bags per business, per year. The good news is that this practice does not have to be reserved only for the business itself. Like anything, the power is with the people - that’s you and me. If you’re a regular at-home coffee drinker and recognising that your coffee bag stash is not doing great things for the planet, then we’re here to provide you with some simple ideas that can make a huge difference to your personal waste footprint. 1. Approach your local cafe and ask Go to where you buy coffee bags and ask them if a BYO coffee tin is an option? Just like BYO cup for your coffee, but applied to the beans themselves. Cafes around the country are already utilising this strategy. One example is Sonder Cafe in Perth, who promotes this (as one of many) sustainability initiatives. 2. Encourage your local cafe If they're open to it, encourage your local to sell their beans this way and not in single-use bags at all - after all, most people who buy beans from the local cafe are locals buying them to take home, and likely they will come back and purchase more. 3. Make positive suggestions Suggestions such as stocking canisters full of pre-ground or whole beans, with business branding and a deposit scheme in place (meaning that the customer puts down a deposit that is then refunded when the canister is brought back for reuse) can introduce them to new ideas. 4. Promote sustainable practices You can remind them that sustainable business encourages a wider demographic of customers, as for many people, such ethos greatly determines where their dollars are spent. 5. Ask around If your regular isn’t open to suggestion, you can choose to find a cafe that is. If business owners realise they could lose customers, then they may be more receptive to implementing positive change. These might seem like strange conversations to have, but believe it or not, they are becoming more common and are valuable points of feedback for business owners who may have good intentions but shy away from taking action. Why reuse ALWAYS wins But what about compostable bags, you may ask? You may have seen brands opting for compostable versions of coffee bags and wonder if it’s necessary to go to the effort to BYO container. While this represents a shift of conscience in the right direction, the benefits are negligible. Why? We’ll explain below: The majority of these bags are only partly compostable, meaning the consumer needs to remove parts of the product to enable it to be composted - e.g. the valve or the sealing strip. Most consumers would have no idea to do this though, nor are they likely to! Ensuring compostable items enter the commercial composting stream is difficult, as access to these services is currently not widespread throughout Australia. Feedback from roasters is that the compostable product is inferior to traditional packaging, not reacting well to the oily, gaseous nature of coffee beans. Compostable coffee bags are also far more expensive than traditional varieties, making them not an overly viable option for cafes. At the end of the day, waste is waste, whether it be from a renewable source or not. And we should all be doing our part to reduce waste wherever possible. But coffee bags claim that they're recyclable..? If you need even more reason to convert to reusables, let us highlight that coffee bags are generally not recyclable. Due to the nature of how coffee acts in a sealed environment, not any old bag will do. The majority of coffee bags are a composite material, comprised of plastic, foil and paper, and containing pressure valves and plastic resealing strips. This means that in the recycling stream the individual components are difficult to recover, so most are sent straight to landfill. Like coffee cups though, coffee bags are marketed as recyclable, despite most recycling facilities not accepting them. REUSE IS BEST.. ..and by adopting a ‘bagless’ approach, you’re encouraging businesses to support more sustainable practices, changing attitudes towards our current throwaway society, and helping to build a future built on reuse practices.
- ELIMINATING SINGLE-USE COFFEE BAGS IN YOUR CAFE
We take a look at the packaging side of coffee beans, from roaster to cafe to consumer, offering some helpful and accessible ways to navigate single-use and the war on waste. Coffee beans - from roaster to cafe Due to the nature of how coffee acts in a sealed environment, not any old bag will do. The majority of coffee bags are a composite material comprised of plastic, foil and paper, and containing pressure valves and plastic resealing strips. This means that in the recycling stream the individual components are difficult to recover, so most are sent straight to landfill. However, with many business migrating to support more localised models, there is some good news on the horizon. An emerging practice is the transportation and distribution of coffee beans from roaster to cafe in reusable buckets and tins. This works on a swap distribution method, where the beans are delivered in sealed buckets, and the previously used empty buckets are picked up, sanitised and reused. This practice, which is gaining popularity, saves thousands of coffee bags entering the waste stream around the country. It also saves money for both the roaster and cafe. To access this kind of initiative, we recommend making contact with a coffee roaster located in proximity to your business and asking if this method is available. If you find it isn’t available in your area, consider starting the conversation to see if it could be implemented. Here are some examples of the system in action in locations across Australia. Marvel Street Coffee Roasters Byron Bay According to Marvel Street, over half of their wholesale accounts now use the reusable bucket swap system, with one bucket in circulation saving on average six hundred single use bags from entering landfill per year. Marvel Street also utilise the plastic bags that the beans are shipped in by cutting them to size, heat sealing, and then repurposing them for their retail shipments. INKA Coffee Roasters Cairns The uptake of the reusable bucket system for Inka's wholesale accounts is a massive 80%! The bucket system has also filtered through to other wholesale roasters who purchase Inka's green beans, roast them and then distribute them throughout their own wholesale customers. Inka believes that using the refill system is saving an average of 550 + single-use bags PER CUSTOMER, per year, with the current metal drums being in circulation for over two years. How a bulk delivery swap system is beneficial for your business Adopting behaviours and best practices like bulk reuse systems is worthy of promotion and can instigate much needed change across the industry in general. You’re also helping your mates who roast the beans to save on packaging costs, supporting them to develop their own businesses in a more sustainable fashion. And of course, you're also saving on single-use packaging waste and costs - the savings can pass from the roaster to you, and from you to the customer. Coffee beans - from cafe to consumer The great news about bulk systems is that the reuse aspect of it can also be offered to your customers who purchase beans from you to use at home. Instead of ordering separate 1kg retail bags, increase your bulk order and; Align with a coffee brand that can sell you 1kg retail coffee canisters and encourage your community to simply bring back the canister - refilling them with your bulk tins. You can also source your own branded canisters that you can sell, or lend out for a deposit, which is refunded when opting out of the reuse network. Display signage that encourages your community to BYO their own container. This not only saves on canister costs but supports resources that are already in use, such as jars and reusable containers, both of which are common kitchen items. Check out our signage page to access our downloadable sign A note on single-use coffee bags Over recent years there has been an emergence of brands opting for 'compostable' versions of coffee bags. While this represents a shift of conscience in the right direction, the benefits are negligible. Why? We’ll explain below: The majority of these bags are only partly compostable, meaning the consumer needs to remove parts of the product to enable it to be composted - e.g. the valve or the sealing strip. Ensuring compostable items enter the commercial composting stream is difficult, as access to these services is currently not widespread throughout Australia. Feedback from roasters is that the compostable product is inferior to traditional packaging, not reacting well to the oily, gaseous nature of coffee beans. Compostable coffee bags are also far more expensive than traditional varieties. And whilst coffee bags are often sold and marketed as 'recyclable', their composite nature makes them difficult to recover and process. Therefore they are not widely recycled in practice. There is minimal availability of genuinely recyclable coffee bags, and the recyclability of these is compromised due the to the array of different types of bags used, and the inability for waste facilities to deem one bag recyclable, but another not. Most are send to landfill. So if not compostable or recyclable, what’s the best option? Reusables are always the best option. Businesses who support reusable systems and encourage customers to BYO canisters reinforce the value of reusables, highlighting to their community why conscious changes are so necessary in order to migrate away from a throwaway society.
- HOW TO START (AND MANAGE) A MUG LIBRARY
A mug library is a great way to encourage your community to embrace reusables. A collection of mugs, cups or jars for people to borrow and return (like a library), instead of using single-use. It's especially handy for those regulars who forget their own reusables (you know the ones) or for people who come in for an unexpected takeaway. GETTING STARTED Committing We all know single-use cups are a massive environmental issue. Which is why you're reading this mug library guide. You're worried about the volume of single-use cups that your business is using and you're looking for solutions. Thank you for taking this first step, it's one of the hardest. Now that you're here (thank you again) the next biggest hurdle to implementing a mug library or reusable network is our attitude towards them. Once we really choose to implement one (wholeheartedly) they work. Choosing your model 'Mug Libraries' come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, with funding & management models equally as diverse, as diverse as each cafe in your local area. Which means there is a model that will suit your situation. 1. Classic Mug library The classic mug library is an eclectic mix of fun, funny and random mugs you might find at the op shop or hidden at the back of your cupboard. They're also the easiest to implement, because unused mugs are easy to get your hands on. 2. # jarlife Let's get real here. The jar library is what all the cool kids are doing these days. Not only can they look fun and stylish but they're great for on-the-go because you can pop the lid on for zero leakage. Oh and no big deal, (except it is a big deal) they're a reuse item too and recyclable at end of life. Jar's are often up-cycled peanut butter or jam jars. They're also easily sterilised and washed, making them perfect for coffee on the go. 3. Formal reuse networks Time to get formal. Reusable coffee cup networks are becoming increasingly accessible, with container schemes also popping up all over the country. A reusable network is designed for uniformity across cup sizes, are stackable on top of your coffee machine and are setup with incredible ease. For more details on reusable networks, click here. SETUP PROCESS (MUGS & JARS) Get your mug/jar collection started If using jars, first decide the size/volume of jar (e380g peanut butter jars are perfect for 12oz coffee or smaller, & pasta sauce or pickle jars are great for cold drinks) Raid your cupboards at home and ask your staff to do the same. Post on social media asking your followers if they would like to donate mugs or jars (this not only helps build the collection but also involves your community, giving them the opportunity to participate in the initiative). If using jars, de-labelling them. This is the least fun part of this process, not gonna lie. We encourage you to ask that donations come label free, saving you a lot of time. If using mugs, organise an op-shop visit. You can also post about your op-shop excursion on social media to promote the initiative and bring people along on the journey. You don't need to spend a fortune, a small budget will suffice. It'll be a lot less than you spend on single-use. Displaying your collection We recommend displaying on the public side of the counter, so people can choose their own mug/jar and it doesn't clog up your workspace. Pick a spot where they can be seen and used easily, there's no point hiding them in the corner. On a display shelf or in a basket works well (see pics above for inspiration). Signage! Make a sign with clear instructions for your customers. Or you can download one of our signs to get you started. MANAGING YOUR LIBRARY (AKA LIBRARIAN DUTIES) Collecting returned mugs/jars & washing them Make a station or box where your community can return used mugs. Sometimes they may come back dirty, don't fret. You'll need to be washing them before they're used again anyway, just like your dine-in cups, so work out a schedule for this with your staff. Deposit or trust? Loaning cups on trust is by far the most behaviour change inducing way to operate your library. It builds community, mutual respect & trust along the way, which our society could do with a whole lot more of. People will forget to return cups, that’s a given. But gentle reminders and nudges on your social media and through clear communications will eventually see most cups returned. We'd also recommend you consider adding a surcharge for single-use cups (like the supermarkets do for bags). Research has shown that surcharges encourage uptake of reusables faster than discounts for BYO. Make it a part of your socials strategy Instead of wasting time ordering single-use cups, use that time to shout out to your community on social media instead. Remind them to return the mugs or jars and invite them for a coffee at the same time (see below). Partnership options with your community If jars are your jam then you have some partnership options in retailing sleeves (these go around your jars to keep them insulated), perhaps with a local maker or craft group partnership to knit them. Alternatively, you can ask people to donate neoprene beer coolers. With mugs you could partner with a local op shop and sell mugs on their behalf, raising money for their charity. PROMOTE IT! Congratulations on your new committed relationship with reusable cups/mugs/jars! Now is the time to shout about it from the rooftops. The first people you should be telling: Your staff Your business partner/s Your regulars Your social media followers Your local zero waste / plastic free groups (you can find them usually on Facebook) Your local media Your local government (most love to share stories like this through their local news) And if you're on of our Plastic Free Places members, please reach out to us we'd love to support you (or join here). For free printable posters, click here.