The New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association (NZSCA) is focused on ensuring its members are aware of the local and global complexities surrounding the long term sustainability of our industry and its wider impact on people and the environment.
We recognise that there are challenges pertaining to environmental, geopolitical and social issues within the coffee industry and as such the association is in the process of preparing recommended guidelines for members.
An informal discussion of sustainability issues and solutions in our sector was initiated at our Annual General Meeting on the 25th May 2018. It was agreed at this meeting that the Board would work with members and key stakeholders to identify the key sustainability issues facing the New Zealand coffee sector to ensure that members can proactively access information relating to advancements in sustainability.
It should be noted that the NZSCA cannot mandate sustainability guidelines amongst its members but intends to be active in encouraging members to take on board recommendations from our findings. Furthermore, it should be noted that many of our member companies are already taking proactive steps to address sustainability issues in New Zealand and overseas; many of these initiatives continue to influence other members to adopt similar practices.
Our member companies are a diverse mix of small, locally owned independent enterprises and larger businesses, some of which are part of multi-national enterprises. The association recognises that there are several options available to members with regards to procurement of green (unroasted) coffee – this may involve direct sourcing, the use of brokers and importers, or a combination of both.
It is at the discretion of individual member companies as to the sourcing model or ethical accreditation (or otherwise) that they may choose to adopt. As such we plan to focus our sustainability efforts in areas that can achieve wide industry adoption, namely environmental sustainability & the wellbeing and sustainability of our people.
We have reviewed the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and chosen these two key areas to focus on which address some of these goals.
1. Encourage member companies to promote the consumption of coffee on-premise rather than in takeaway cups.
2. Advocate for a circular economy model within our industry to reduce landfill contributions. An example is to advise member companies of compostable takeaway cup alternatives where there is a tangible and consumer-friendly compost collection & infrastructure available in their community. A second example is to encourage the composting of waste coffee grinds to avoid this rich resource being sent to landfill.
3. Provide members companies with information on how they can reduce and/or offset their carbon emissions to address climate change. Advise member companies of existing local and international tools and schemes that can assist them in initiating a carbon offset policy.
In October 2018 we undertook our first ever member survey on single-use takeaway cups. This information has been published as a separate report and we plan to use it to help our members and key stakeholders to embrace the circular economy model.
Wellbeing & Sustainability of our people
1. Encourage member companies to have an open and inclusive employment policy, ensuring that there is no discrimination when hiring staff, alongside gender and pay equality.
2. Make all members aware of the minimum wage, and provide them with information to allow them to make informed choices in relation to initiating a Living Wage.
3. Encouraging member companies to provide clear and distinguishable career paths for employees in the coffee sector through professional development plans.
4. Encourage member companies to understand employees who may be affected by mental health, and encourage them to work with employees with care and respect.
5. Encourage member companies to educate and advise their clients on the financial sustainability of the cafe and hospitality sector to ensure it remains competitive and financially sustainable.
The case for a Circular Economy – Discussion paper on Single Use Takeaway Coffee Cups and Consumables
Executive Summary – November 2018
In October 2018 the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association undertook its first ever member Sustainability survey.
Following our May 2018 AGM and a discussion on sustainability, it was determined by our board and members that one of the critical issues we have a responsibility as a sector to address is single-use takeaway cups, or more directly the disposal & management of them.
We had responses from 31 of our members representing small, medium and large organisations throughout New Zealand. Although this may appear to be a small response from members the cumulative total is considerable based on the volume of business these collective organisations conduct. Furthermore, the engagement and interest we have had on this topic is significant and represents a real and somewhat urgent need from our members to find workable solutions.
We’ve listed our main out-takes from the survey here, and a summary of the responses is listed further below under ‘key findings’.
The majority of our members who responded are offering compostable cups and lids (77%) but only 58% have commercial composting facilities in the region they operate
There is inconsistency in commercial composting facilities relative to the type of compostable packaging they accept – this is causing some confusion and resulting in some compostable packaging going to landfill when it could have been composted (creating a positive contribution of carbon material to green waste).
Not all of New Zealand has commercial composting facilities – see the areas that are serviced in this map (courtesy of Stuff.co.nz) https://infogram.com/43e3aba2-c453-4442-ae88-05c0c3a1e196
The centres where compost collections are working well, and where compostable cups are accepted, are growing considerably in volume, scale and uptake, creating a mini circular economy model and revenue for operators such as We Compost and Envirofert in Auckland.
Reusable Cup sales and use are increasing exponentially – our respondents sold over 103,000 reusable cups in the last year alone and are reporting increasing numbers of consumers using them.
Consumer awareness is driving an increased use of reusable cups and re-use schemes, with consumers and our members engaging in various initiatives outlined in this document.
What are we asking for?
As an industry, we are seeking to engage and collaborate in solutions with local and national government. Collectively we represent a significant amount of businesses, both in scale and volume. Our sector is united in wanting to create positive change (evidenced by uptake to date, reuse schemes and reusable cup uptake), but we recognise that this requires some governance form local and national bodies.
Guidance for our members, particularly in those regions not currently serviced by commercial composting facilities, on what their options are for collection or disposal. We see an opportunity for collaboration or expansion of some existing facilities to service a wider catchment. Could this be incentivised or supported in some way by local government?
Some of the commercial composting collections and facilities are still small and require investment in infrastructure to scale – how can local or national government assist in this area?
We are seeking guidance on the framework for how our industry and those supporting it can engage in the circular economy, be it via compostable single-use cups, reusable cups, or recyclable cups
There is currently no national government-led legislation for compliance or labelling of compostable packaging – could the government assist in creating a national standard that would help all stakeholder conform and increase the uptake of compostable materials?
Key findings from our survey
Our members operate in almost every geographical part of New Zealand. Respondents primary locations and councils are in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Wairarapa, Manawatu/Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Nelson/Tasman, Christchurch, Queenstown and Otago.
On average respondents are selling 58,000 takeaway cups and lids per week – collectively that’s 1.8 million takeaway cups and lids.
53% of respondents offer a takeaway lid as optional
77% of respondents provide commercial compostable cups and lids – so that’s 1.38 million compostable cups and lids per week.
Respondents that don’t offer a compostable lid have a recyclable lid.
Of respondents who are not already using commercially compostable cups and lids 86% are interesting in moving to them. Those that are not interested have noted this is only because they have no commercial composting infrastructure in their region.
58% (18 respondents) have commercial composting facilities in the region they operate, whilst 35% don’t and 7% were not sure.
48% of respondents already send their businesses compostable waste to a commercial composting facility either through a collection agent or direct. 45% of respondents do not and the remainder are either unsure or are on a waiting list.
Only 50% of the members who use a commercial composting collection facility are able to send them compostable cups and lids. There is clear variability amongst commercial composters and this is causing some confusion for our members and consumers.
Those who do use a Commercial Composting Facility or agent work with the following organisations:
We Compost (Auckland)
Kai to Compost (Wellington)
Waste Management (agents for Kai to Compost)
Envirowaste (agents for Kai to Compost)
Reclaim (via Biopak)
Kai Cycle (Wellington)
Organic Waste Management (Wellington)
Those that are not using a composting facility or collection service cite the following reasons why they are not able to:
No facilities in their region, or are trying to work with their local councils to get a facility like this setup
Some composting facilities (such as Composting New Zealand) don’t accept compostable cups (PLA or clear) as they don’t degrade fast enough
Apart from commercial compostable coffee cups, respondents also sell or provide the following commercially compostable consumables:
Cold Cups for ice drinks/smoothies (54%)
Takeaway food containers (71%)
Dump Tube Liners (33%)
84% of respondents sell reusable cups and of those that don’t 3% plan to in the future. Collectively respondents have sold over 103,000 reusable cups in the last year. Our members are seeing significant increases in the percentage of customers using reusable cups; 50% are seeing up to 20% of their customers converting to reusable cups, and 12% of respondents report over 50% of their customers are using reusable cups.
There are a number of entrepreneurial success stories based on the need to address single use takeaway cups in New Zealand. Some of these include:
Again Again in Wellington (with plans to go nationwide) https://www.againagain.co/how-it-works
Ideal Cup based in the Lower Hutt region has created this initiative: http://www.idealcup.co.nz/cupcycling/
Auckland businesses Innocent Packaging have rolled out collection bins for compostable cups specifically targeted at consumers with We Compost: https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/19-07-2018/a-new-citywide-compost-company-is-taking-on-aucklands-coffee-drinkers/
Detpak have recently launched a recycling scheme for non-compostable Detpak branded cups: https://www.detpak.com/recycleme/
What is the Circular Economy Model?
Image courtesy of the Ministry for the Environment.
On March 15 2019, we recieved a reply from HON. Eugenie Sage, Associate Minister for the Environment.