Sep 23, 2021 — In the United States, Bequest Coffee Roasters has developed a method to reduce packaging waste in the coffee supply chain, while preserving the freshness of single-origin beans. Speaking to PackagingInsights on the role of packaging in a more circular economy, William Ruiz, developer of the “Close the Loop” system at the Connecticut-based artisanal roasting start-up.
When consumers are ready to return their empty jars, they can request a prepaid shipping label and instructions on how to close the loop. The system converts their deposits (US $ 2.50 for a pot) into credits for their next purchase.
With higher retail bean sales as the global community continues to work from home, this method can have a significant impact, notes Ruiz.
“With the way we’ve designed the business model, scaling is very beneficial both for the business and for our environment,” he comments. “On the product side, stock rotation keeps our beans cool and keeps us regularly at roasters. “
“On the packaging side, returning our packaging inexpensively to our customers saves us from having to buy more plastic jars. “
But one of the biggest potential challenges will be shipping costs, he concedes. “If these continue to increase, it could force us to reposition our model.”
Choose the right material
Landfill waste continues to accumulate in the millions of tonnes, especially after supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, China decision no longer being a landfill for plastic waste has put additional pressure on waste management.
When selecting the right material for this reusable model, glass jars were first considered. However, this format presented a major challenge with shipping, especially given the ease with which glass breaks.
“Being heavier, the cost of shipping the glass was overwhelming,” Ruiz explains. “Plastic pots are incredibly durable, and since coffee is a dry product, we don’t have to worry about plastic degradation. “
“We use the fact that plastic takes hundreds of years to break down as an asset rather than a liability for the environment,” he adds. “With shipping, we stick with paper bags for local deliveries and biodegradable shipping bags for shipped orders.”
“The corn-based shippers are certainly more expensive, but it is our responsibility to fulfill our mission. “
Expanding the horizons of single origin
Legacy plans to expand its unique coffee origins to a handful of other countries like Colombia, Indonesia and Peru.
“Regarding the Close the Loop system, we are working to automate certain parts of the process for more efficiency,” explains Ruiz.
“When it comes to geographic growth, I think shipping costs are the biggest challenge. To remain economically viable, we might get to a point where we would like to establish hubs across the country to reduce costs and shipping times. “
“It does not stop only with the sale”
Companies are responsible for their products, and that includes packaging, says Ruiz. Extended producer responsibility Packaging programs are widely seen as essential to tackle increasing levels of waste and pollution.
“I followed the companies and the whole wave of corporate social responsibility,” he notes. “I think it’s amazing what some companies are doing there.”
“But one of the most fundamental responsibilities as a business is the carbon footprint your products leave behind, and that doesn’t end just after the sale. After 100 years and a faded bottle of Coca-Cola shows up at the local beach, who is responsible? “
Ruiz believes companies can get creative in enticing their consumers. “It might not be the sexiest corporate social responsibility program, but it can be. As consumers, we have a choice of the types of businesses we choose to support by purchasing one product over another.
“There are many companies that offer added values that are socially similar to typical products like laundry detergents or bathroom products. “
By Benjamin Ferrer
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