Managing and reducing our waste
Every year, the UK sends over 100 million tonnes of waste to landfill. Sadly, the environmental and economic consequences of chucking rubbish into landfill can be pretty significant. A lot of waste doesn’t break down properly in landfill and that which does break down gives off methane — a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
We’re proud to say that we haven’t sent any waste to landfill since 2017, but the journey certainly hasn’t been easy. Like most modern businesses, we inevitably produce a fair amount of waste and finding an environmentally-friendly way to dispose of damaged tea bags, packaging materials and coffee waste presents some challenges.
The waste hierarchy
In all our decisions, we’re very conscious of what’s called the waste hierarchy. This principle orders the different ways that waste can be dealt with from most environmentally friendly, to least.
So things that went to landfill might now be incinerated for energy instead. Waste that is currently incinerated we should look to recycle or compost. And some of the waste that gets recycled should be reused instead. The more we can move items up the hierarchy, the better — although the best option is to create less waste.
Establishing a dedicated waste group
We’ve established a dedicated waste group. Stacked with some seriously clever individuals, this group is in charge of finding new ways of cutting down on waste, and reducing the environmental impact of our waste disposal activities. They’ve already helped us to establish better waste segregation policies in our factory and offices, and they’re currently working on a number of initiatives that are designed to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
Our waste group also set targets and help us to progress towards our goal of eliminating unnecessary waste by 2025. Where we know that waste is unavoidable we look to reuse, recycle or compost — reuse being the best of these options.
Reusing our waste and giving back to the community
In order to increase waste that gets reused, we run a community-focused initiative called the Cone Exchange. Established in 2003, this special “scrap store” collects waste items from our factory and other local businesses and either trades them with other scrap stores or sells them to people who can give our waste a new lease of life.
The project works with schools, craft groups and community groups across Harrogate and all the proceeds are donated to local charities. We think the Cone Exchange is a great way to make good use of the tea bag string cones, cardboard boxes, hessian sacks and other craft-friendly materials that we’re done using, and the extra money for charity is great too.
Recycling our waste
Where we can’t reduce or reuse our waste, we look to recycle or compost where we can, and our factory uses a series of colour-coded bins to make sure that every scrap of cardboard, paper or glass ends up in the right place. About 48% of our waste is recycled, which is pretty good going, all things considered.
We recycle all of our cardboard, plastic film, rigid plastics, wood and metal. And all of our food waste and tea and coffee waste is sent locally for anaerobic digestion where it produces biogas and valuable fertiliser for farmers.
Working in partnership
Working with local companies, we also ensure that unrecyclable things are kept from landfill sites and are instead turned into Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) that can be used as an alternative to high-carbon fossil fuels. We also turn approximately 34% of our waste to something called Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) that can be burnt in power plants to generate electricity.