Canary Wharf Group launches circular coffee waste system

A pioneering initiative at the Canary Wharf estate in London has fully embraced the circular economy as the property, retail and waste management sectors join forces to recycle and reuse coffee waste.

Coffee cups, lids and coffee grounds generated by more than 300 shops, bars and restaurants across the estate are being recycled with the use of designated bins, in a scheme launched this week by waste management firm Cawley Group and communications partner Veris for the Canary Wharf Group.

The separate materials will be given second life uses – British paper cup recycler Simply Cups will recycle the coffee cups and lids while biomass recycler Bio-Bean will turn the coffee grounds into biofuel. Each year an estimated half a million cups are used at the estate, and the scheme is hoped to repurpose hundreds of tonnes of waste generated from coffee drinking a year.

Canary Wharf Management co-managing director Steve Greig said: “With 900,000 visitors each week, there’s a real opportunity to make a contribution to waste recovery at Canary Wharf. 

“Thanks to our ‘Making Sustainability Real’ campaign, we ensure that over 80% of all the waste from the Canary Wharf Retail Operations goes to second life uses, which includes the donation of furniture and surplus food to community schemes. We want to change the perception of ‘waste’, proving that it can be a useful resource. Coffee is just the next step for us at Canary Wharf.”

New norm

Retailers across the estate’s five shopping malls such as Costa Coffee and Café Brera will support attempts to make the 128-acre site a ‘Clean Coffee Zone’. To raise awareness of waste recovery, Café Brera will offer a free coffee to anyone who returns five empty coffees within fortnight.

This week, members of the public are being asked to pledge their support and donate at a stand near the designated bins, where they can exchange their coffee cup for a reusable model designed by manufacturer KeepCup. Those who take part are also being rewarded with coffee vouchers for Change Please, an initiative which provides a barista training programme for previously homeless individuals.

“The sheer scale of the Canary Wharf estate makes this a really exciting scheme, where we will see a ‘new norm’ with regards to coffee waste,” Simply Cups director Peter Goodwin said. “The scheme keeps Canary Wharf at the forefront of innovation while delivering real value to its workers, visitors and residents.”

Commenting on his company’s role in the scheme, Bio-Bean chief executive Arthur Kay said: “This exciting new partnership means the waste grounds from the coffee that warms the visitors to Canary Wharf in the morning could soon be heating their home in the evenings – all while helping London reduce its carbon footprint.”

Circular latte

As highlighted in the influential Hugh’s War on Waste TV programme last year, the UK produces an estimated 500,000 tonnes of waste coffee a year. Many of the largest coffee chains are partnering with ‘truly recyclable’ coffee cup manufacturers such as Frugalpac to address the questionable recyclability of current coffee cup solutions.

For instance, Italian-style coffee shop chain Caffé Nero is looking to extend an innovative coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme beyond greater London after a successful partnership with recycling company First Mile and technology firm Bio-Bean.

The UK’s largest coffee chain Costa has also entered into a partnership with Bio-Bean, which will see 3,000 tonnes of Costa’s waste coffee grounds used as biofuel. In 2015, Bio-Bean launched a capital-wide scheme that provides heating to 15,000 homes across London, using waste coffee beans collected from local baristas.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has followed in the footsteps of Costa by introducing in-store recycling bins for paper cups. And in a move that could prime the UK for a coffee cup recycling revolution, Simply Cups has thrown its weight behind a project that provides businesses and consumers with a cup that can be recycled at traditional paper mills.

George Ogleby

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