Event27 July 2022

Supporting independent cafes with sustainability

On 22 July, the SMI Hub invited a cohort of Greater Manchester independent cafes to the Henry Royce Institute Hub Building for an afternoon workshop on sustainability.

The workshop arose following increasing commitments to legislation that will ban single-use items in the service industry. From June 2022, single-use plastic items, including cutlery, plates, stirrers, polystyrene cups and food containers, will be banned in Scotland, with the rest of the UK likely to follow suit.

Businesses from across Manchester, including Michael’s Coffee House, Open Kitchen Manchester, Workerbee Cafe, Nibble, Grounded MCR, Milk & Honey, Grind & Tamp and Ancoats Coffee Co. joined the SMI Hub to learn more about  single-use items.  The workshop focussed on how their components are made, used and disposed of, and participants gained an insight into where they could reduce costs, waste, resources, and environmental impact.

The two-hour workshop was split into 3 areas:

  1. End-of-life

Dr Chloe Loveless, Senior Experimental Officer, and Dr Guilhem De Hoe, Research Fellow, provided an overview of plastics and the waste management structures needed to deal with each type, including the limitations. This covered mechanical recycling, industrial composting and energy from waste via incineration.

  1. Reducing Single-Use​

Dr Nicola Jones, Experimental Officer, presented the limitations and challenges of single-use from start to end-of-life, covering cups, cutlery, tableware and packaging. Suggestions to reduce single-use included:

  • Buy for end-of-life – contact your waste management company to understand what happens to your waste and what they can and can’t accept​
  • Eliminate single-use stirrers, replace with reusables, for example a metal spoon​
  • Provide lids and straws only when requested rather than by default​
  • Eliminate single-serving packaging, for example sugar packets. ​
  1. Promoting Re-Use

It’s estimated <5% hot drinks are sold in reusable cups, despite two thirds of customers owning them. Michaela Kiernan, Business Engagement Coordinator, took the group through ideas to incentivise re-use, such as levy charges on disposable cups vs. discount or loyalty card stamps for reusables, and deposit return schemes. A case study suggested was Boston Tea Party, a small chain of independent cafes which in 2018 banned single-use cups and opted to incentivise reuse by encouraging their customers to either bring their own reusable cups, ​buy a subsidised reusable cup, or borrow a cup on a deposit return scheme. They have so far prevented over 820,000 ​disposable cups from going to landfill/incineration.

Each presentation was followed by an animated Q&A session, and the workshop closed with the provision of resources and videos to support the cohort’s sustainability journeys.

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Poppy Robinson

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