How Locale embraces sustainability through its packaging materials


BeanScene speaks with Locale Coffee Roasters Marketing Manager, Kristin Jackson on how the company has embraced sustainability through its packaging materials and products. 

Specialty coffee roaster Locale was born in 2015 in Abbotsford, Victoria with the vision to build relationships and positively impact the community through a deep love for coffee. This translates to how sustainability has informed the business, particularly in its recent efforts in introducing more sustainable packaging.

Packaging became an important area of consideration for Locale once it began to look into its overall carbon footprint, according to Locale Coffee Roasters Marketing Manager, Kristin Jackson.

We were previously using a foil-lined bag which was the packaging standard in the industry five to 10 years ago,” she says. “While the craft may have looked more sustainable than white plastic, it was far from it. We discovered the material used couldn’t be processed through any existing recycling stream and were ultimately ending up in landfill.”

For Locale, the solution lay in using bags made from soft plastic. Despite its single use nature, it was the best available option at the time to ensure the coffee remained fresh when tested against the more “sustainable” packaging options on the market. However, the specialty roaster was not satisfied with the end result.

“The thought was, if we could somehow create our own circular economy, we could make sure they’d be recycled and go on to have a second life cycle,” Kristin says.

“From there, we looked into existing soft plastics recycling streams like Redcycle. [It was] great from the consumer perspective, but didn’t solve one of our biggest concerns: our wholesale packaging. We couldn’t recycle large amounts through Redcycle, so we started looking at other companies who could process that kind of volume.”

This was where Reground came into play. A business model centred on turning waste into a resource, Reground provided a soft plastics solution that allowed the bags to be recycled through their existing partnerships.

“We drop [our packaging] to Reground in 120-kilogram lots at a time and for a small fee, they ensure it gets processed from there,” Kristin says. “In the first six months, we diverted 600 kilograms of soft plastic from landfill, which is equivalent to 120 shopping trolleys’ worth. This move also prevented an estimated 480 kilograms of harmful gases from entering the atmosphere. And we have roughly another 600 kilograms we’re preparing to drop to Reground.”

To divert such a high volume of soft plastic from landfill, the Locale team offered to collect empty bags from its café partners with their fresh coffee every week. This initiative has been met with considerable success already, with approximately 60 per cent of the bags being returned.

One drawback however, is that the one-way degassing valve in the packaging is a rigid plastic that soft plastic recyclers can’t process.

“But it can be mainstream recycled,” Kristin says. “In the beginning, we were taking the bags back with the valve still attached and cutting them out ourselves. As you can imagine, that quickly became a massive job for our small team. We learnt our lesson the hard way. After cutting out tens of thousands of valves by hand, we’ve asked our café partners to cut them out before returning them.”

So far, the recycled soft plastics have been used to create building film, which would otherwise be made from virgin plastics.

Additionally, all of Locale’s cardboard products are made from 100 per cent recycled material and can be recycled again. Meanwhile, its retail canisters – produced with 90 per cent recycled paperboard – were designed to be reused. On returning the canisters to Locale’s participating café partners, customers can have them refilled for $1 less than the original retail price. The closest refill station can be located using the Café Finder on Locale’s website.

Sustainable practices have also infiltrated Locale’s other business endeavours. The specialty roaster’s product range became certified Carbon Neutral in 2018 before joining the Carbon Reduction Institute’s Zero Carbon Economy two years later, eliminating its carbon footprint.

The roastery and warehouse is powered by solar energy, carbon neutral delivery services are used for the online store, and various small but impactful changes were made to further reduce emissions. In the instance where Locale are not able to reduce emissions, such as importing green coffee, it purchased carbon credits that are used to plant trees or support renewables.

Sustainability is also considered within the coffee itself, Kristin says.

“Our organic Eco Warrior blend uses a coffee from the Orangutan Coffee Project in Indonesia,” she says. “We pay a premium on top of the agreed green bean price, which helps to rescue and rehabilitate Sumatran orangutans, fight deforestation and protect their habitat through rainforest conservation.

“We’ve also created our Community Initiatives Fund, where we donate 5 per cent of all Eco Warrior coffee and merchandise sales to good people doing good things in the community. As part of that initiative, we’ve donated to environmental not-for-profits like the Climate Council. But its main goal is to support the community via charities like StreetSmart, Beyond Blue and Children’s Ground, as well our donations recipient for this quarter, GIVIT Australia – giving aid to flood affected communities in Queensland and New South Wales.”

With sustainability so embedded in the business, Locale aims to continually review its packaging materials and takeaway cups to incorporate the best solutions on the market.

It is also looking to become B Corp certified, which will add another layer of transparency for its customers and keep them accountable. It’s also a way to measure Locale’s impact and how they can improve as a business.

Sustainability is something we consider in every decision we make. We didn’t want to be just another business putting profits above all else, or ticking a box in terms of what we think we should be doing in order to say we’re ‘sustainable,’” Kristin says.

“It’s important to educate people on the environmental impacts of the coffee industry. We’re proving it’s not that difficult to make the sustainable choice, nor does it take away from having a profitable business model – it’s just a question of whether businesses are willing to make it a priority.”

Many consumers certainly are, in choosing to support businesses like Locale Coffee Roasters.

“Our hope is the more we talk about the positive impact we can have, the more people will start to look for the businesses doing the right thing,” Kristin says. “That’s a thought process that can be taken way beyond the coffee industry.”

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This article appears in the June 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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