Merlo Coffee provides an update on the roastery’s sustainability initiatives and discusses why offsetting emissions and reducing its environmental impact are still front of mind.
Sustainability may have become a buzz word in recent years, but for Brisbane-based coffee roaster Merlo Coffee, it’s still a core commitment.
Merlo Coffee Head of Operations Simon Brooks has a strong focus on continuing a range of sustainability endeavours. He says the long-term economic, environmental, and social health of the coffee industry are vital considerations.
“Coffee comes from the environment. If we can’t look after our ecosystem, there won’t be any coffee left. We’re not going to leave change to farmers or overseas companies or importers, we want to do our part at the other end of the supply chain,” Simon says.
“With COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror, sustainability is at the forefront of our minds.”
From June 2021 to July 2022, Merlo Coffee has made many positive contributions to replace conventional foodservice packaging, such as offsetting more than 1.2 million kilograms of carbon, the equivalent of driving more than 4.5 million kilometres in a modern car.
“We’ve also avoided almost 49,000 kilograms of plastic by choosing sustainable alternatives to finite fossil-based plastics,” says Simon.
Outside of the factory, Merlo Coffee has made a wider environmental contribution by planting 163 trees to support Rainforest Rescue, Greenfleet, and Ecologi with tree planting and environmental restoration initiatives.
“We’ve always been very sustainably focused, since [company founder] Dean Merlo started the business. We want to contribute as much as possible to support the Rainforest Rescue, Greenfleet, and Ecologi initiatives so we can replenish trees and the coffee industry as a whole,” Simon says.
Merlo Coffee’s goal this year is to reduce its emissions even further. To help reach its target, the roaster in the process of switching from polylactic acid lined take- way cups to the new Aqueous based lined cups, produced by sustainable packaging company BioPak.
“Aqueous BioCups are manufactured using a unique water-based dispersion coating certified to AS5810 home compostable standards. This process significantly reduces the amount of material needed while still providing the same leak- and grease-proof benefits as other coatings like traditional polyethylene,” Simon says.
“Single wall Aqueous cups are available in four sizes with compatible plastic-free lids for a completely home compostable solution. This means that when paired with one of BioPak’s sugarcane lids, customers can enjoy a takeaway coffee knowing that they can compost the cup and lid right in their own backyard.”
According to BioPak, this breakthrough technology is a “game-changer” in the world of disposable paper cups, offering an eco-friendly alternative that is food safe, odourless, and can be disposed of in a compost bin.
“Our goal was to keep more than three million Merlo takeaway cups out of landfill. With BioPak’s Aqueous coffee cups, we can potentially save 20 million cups from landfill, meaning we would have easily surpassed this goal by now,” says Simon.
Merlo Coffee also practices sustainable packaging methods, re-using old boxes that are shredded and used for packing fill in its deliveries. This removes the need for plastic air bubble wrap or polystyrene fill.
To add to Merlo Coffee’s growing list of sustainable projects, the roaster launched its first specialty coffee capsules in December 2022, based on two of its most popular blends, Forza and Organico. The capsules are made with aluminium packaging, meaning they come with multiple functional and environmental benefits.
“We use aluminium capsules for infinite recyclability and to ensure there is no moisture or oxygen transfer. Capsules are compatible with all original line Nespresso machines, or machines of the same standard from other manufacturers,” says Simon.
The use of aluminium capsules highlights the roaster’s continued focus on operating sustainably. Among other initiatives, Merlo Coffee is also improving its energy usage, with solar panels installed at its two main roasteries in Bowen Hills and Eagle Farm in Queensland.
“We have over 400 solar panels covering our two facilities, which has reduced our carbon emissions by 533,000 kilograms, equivalent to 10,000 plants. Any excess that we need to offset we purchase large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) from a solar farm in northwest New South Wales. We currently purchase about 110 LGCs every quarter,” Simon says.
Despite an array of sustainable achievements, Simon says Merlo Coffee isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He says the roaster is fine-tuning all areas of the company to strategise the most effective changes to do business in a more sustainable way.
“There’s always more you can do with sustainability. It’s about getting the resources in place and operating with carbon neutrality in mind. We’ve even put in an order to change all of our vehicles to Toyota Hybrid models, from sales through to delivery, combining the power of petrol engines with the efficiency of electric motors,” he says.
“It’s vital that we do our part and step up as an industry leader in Australia, to show that not only is it possible for larger businesses such as ours to obtain sustainable practices, but that it’s affordable and accessible for all.”
For more information, visit www.merlo.com.au