Peerless Coffee Brews More Efficient Waste Management

Peerless Coffee Brews More Efficient Waste Management

Roll of mylar packaging

For the past 10 years, Peerless Coffee & Tea has found recyclers for its coffee waste, slashed the amount of packaging it trashes and started making deliveries with reusable crates, all in all saving more than $110,000 a year and cutting waste by 85 percent with the help of the StopWaste Partnership.

The Oakland-based coffee roaster started working with StopWaste in 2000, received an education in sorting and recycling trash, and eventually moved on to using more-efficient equipment and making deliveries in a new way.

One of the first things StopWaste did was help Peerless understand what trash they could and could not recycle or compost and hook them up with companies that haul away various wastes.

"They have been a fantastic partner," said George Vukasin, Jr., Peerless' executive vice president, adding that StopWaste has been especially useful with finding companies that accept wastes with fluctuating or low values.

Peerless now sorts and sends away paper, cardboard, cans and bottles, burlap bags, coffee chaff (the outer skin of beans) and spent coffee grounds. StopWaste also provided a $5,000 grant for buying recycling bins and helped train the staff at Peerless' 25,000-square-foot facility.

Their efforts cut a sizable chunk out of Peerless' waste stream and reduced its garbage hauling bill by $10,000 a year.

The company's next step was to deal with a material for which recycling was not a viable option: Mylar. Peerless' products are packaged in Mylar bags (roll of Mylar shown above), and most of the company's Mylar garbage was created when employees would manually recalibrate the packaging machine when switching packaging sizes.

During the manual recalibration, the machine would keep running, churning out wasted Mylar that had to be scrapped.

StopWaste stepped in with a $100,000 grant from its Business Waste Prevention Fund that helped Peerless buy a new packaging machine with electronic calibration. The new machine cut the company's Mylar waste by 95 percent and saves $100,000 a year on packaging costs.

Since Peerless sells its products through local hotels, restaurants and its own retail store in the Bay Area (it also offers its goods through an online store), local deliveries are a big part of its business.

The company's latest waste reduction strategy has involved testing reusable plastic boxes instead of cardboard boxes for deliveries. In July 2009 it started a pilot project on one of its five local routes.

Instead of packing each order in cardboard boxes that would be left with customers, Peerless used reusable totes to move orders around, and removed the items from the totes when making deliveries.

The new method also leaves less packaging for customers to deal with; all they get now are the products they ordered, with no boxes to break down and dispose of. "Customers are excited," Vukasin said. "They love the idea and are wildly supportive."

Peerless found that the change reduced the amount of labor needed to pick out orders, protected coffee bags better (especially in wet weather), reduced delivery time and increased safety due to the use of stackable bins. And by eliminating the daily use of cardboard boxes, Peerless saved $2,500 a year. The company now plans to roll out reusable boxes for its four other routes.

Roll of Mylar packaging - Courtesy Peerless Coffee & Tea