Merlo discusses its sustainability endeavours


Merlo Coffee is on a mission to obtain carbon neutrality, and to get there, Head of Operations Simon Brooks reflects on its sustainability endeavours. 

Brisbane-based coffee company Merlo Coffee is turning up the heat on its sustainability goals, making a very deliberate effort to become more environmentally friendly in all its business practices.

Merlo’s Head of Operations Simon Brooks says this includes everything from discounts on reusable cups and compostable packaging, to recently installed solar panels at several facilities.

“Sustainability has become a buzz word in recent years, and people are increasingly looking to companies to implement sustainable business practices. There’s no reason for businesses to not try and do the most for the environment and do their part here in Australia,” says Simon.

“Our goal this year is to reduce our emissions even further, firstly by reintroducing reusable cups back into the marketplace as COVID-19 subsides.”

To incentivise customers, Merlo is offering a free coffee on purchase and $0.30 savings on refills for customers that use a reusable cup. The company also provides a complimentary coffee to customers who bring six Merlo cup trays in-store to be reused.

Merlo is determined to keep more than three million takeaway cups out of landfill. To help reach its goal, sustainable packaging company BioPak has introduced fully compostable, eco-friendly packaging for Merlo customers.

“Compostable BioCups from BioPak are the first and only products of their kind to be certified carbon neutral, B Corp, and commercially compostable to Australia and New Zealand standards. It allows customers to make a big difference through their choices,” says Simon.

“Now you can do something good for the earth by dropping a Merlo BioCup in our collection bins outside any Merlo Coffee store. These cups and lids will be combined with Merlo’s coffee grounds, food scraps and packaging and in less than 12 weeks, the by-product is utilised as a nutrient rich compost.”

Merlo’s BioPak cups use Ingeo polylactide bioplastics, which utilise a number of renewable resources such as plant oils, cellulose, starches, sugars, carbohydrates, bacteria and algae. This results in 75 per cent less greenhouse gases than conventional plastics.

“We distribute around five million cups per year from our warehouse, which is a huge amount of landfill. That’s a major reason why we partnered with BioPak, to make sure we reduce our wastage and do as little damage as possible [to the environment],” Simon says.

Merlo has even switched from double to single-wall cups, thereby saving 112 tonnes of paper and 335 tonnes of trees required to make the paper each year.

Merlo also exclusively uses BioPak’s compostable cups, lids, packaging, and cutlery across all retail stores.

Since partnering with BioPak, and from the period of June 2020 to July 2021, Simon says Merlo has made many positive contributions to replace conventional foodservice packaging, such as offsetting more than one million kilograms of carbon, the equivalent of driving four million kilometres in a new car.

“We’ve also avoided 45,000 kilograms of plastic by choosing sustainable alternatives to finite fossil-based plastics,” says Simon.

Outside of the factory, Merlo has made a wider environmental contribution by planting 157 trees to support Rainforest Rescue and Greenfleet with their 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 and the Greenfleet initiatives so we can replenish trees and the coffee industry as a whole,” Simon says.

A number of Merlo’s top selling beans, such as its Brazilian Single Origin and Decaf Blend are also Rainforest Alliance certified, ensuring compliance to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria.

“It’s one of the largest non-profit organisations that supports responsible business. Not only does the alliance protect forests, but it improves the livelihoods of farmers, promotes their human rights, and helps them mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. That’s why we promote the organisation, to help support the farmers, where it all begins,” says Simon.

In 2019, Merlo invested more than $300,000 in solar energy panels to power both its Eagle Farm and Bowen Hills roasting facilities. The use of solar energy offsets the large amounts of electricity used to power its roasters, which produce 1200 tonnes of roasted coffee per year.

The husks from its roasters are also compacted into pellets which can be used in the garden, as a fire starter or in worm farms.

“Our objective is to offset our carbon footprint by ensuring our roasting facilities are carbon neutral,” Simon says.

He is happy with Merlo’s sustainable efforts so far, but is driven by the company’s big future plans to reduce the company’s waste even further.

“We’re getting very close to where we want to be, however there’s still a way to go. There’s still a lot of takeaway packaging we’d like to get rid of, and we’d like to transfer our wholesale customers to compostable bags,” Simon says.

“We hope we set an example to other businesses of how easy it is to operate sustainably. There’s plenty of incentives and technologies out there to assist everyone, so there’s really no excuse.”

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

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