A New Recycling Option

I've noticed a bit of a sea change on our supermarket shelves recently with the introduction of refill bags for instant coffee. I got a bit annoyed at the pictured one because there's a big eco-friendly customer message trumpeted on the packet re less weight and transportation miles (reduced costs for them more like), yet I'm now faced with throwing away something to go to landfill rather than recycling my glass jar. I wonder how well the two cancel each other out?

I was harumphing away about this again in the supermarket on Saturday when I spotted a rival company has thought things through a bit further and signed up with Terracycle, who will take in their bags and do something useful with them. Looking at the website this can result in a few products suitable for the garden amongst other things. How about joining in too Nestlé?

I hadn't heard of Terracycle before and it looks like they're relatively new in the UK. Their aim is to upcycle the more difficult waste we throw away*: the stuff usually ignored by our regular household recycling collections. Specific products are targeted (called 'brigades') and you sign up for those which match what you're throwing away. Postage is free (by downloading a Royal Mail label from the website) and you send each waste type they're collecting separately in batches of less than 5kg in weight.

Points are awarded for the rubbish you send, which can either be donated to charity or for a school fundraiser. It's not said specifically on the website, but it looks like it's aimed at community initiatives to collect waste and fundraise, but I'm sure they won't say no to individuals sending their stuff in either. I see one of their waste brigades is asking for a certain brand of yoghurt pots, of which NAH throws away at least 2 a day, so I'll be collecting these in future :)

The Terracycle concept isn't just for the UK, it's currently available in a further 14 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and USA. What's accepted varies between the different countries.

We're about to have another change to our recycling in Chippenham as we're all awaiting delivery of our new bins for kerbside cardboard and plastic collection starting next month - more on this another time.

Have these coffee refill bags hit your shops yet? Or have you noticed any new recycling initiatives in your area lately?

Update 12/9 @ 19:40: I've just left the following message for Nestlé via their website:

Re your new coffee refill packs. It would be good if you'd adopt the same approach as your competitor, Kenco. Perhaps you'd like to comment on my recent blog post on the subject: http://vegplotting.blogspot.com/2011/09/new-recycling-option.htm

Update 14/9 @ 16:00: I've just had the following response from Nestlé:

Thank you for your questions about Nestlé’s coffee refill packs.

We work hard to provide different packaging options that suit a range of different needs. However we also always look to ensure that where possible our packaging is designed to minimise the environmental impact across the entire lifecycle of our products.

We are working to improve the collection and recyclability of our products and are currently working with external partners to explore different ways of promoting the responsible disposal of packaging which currently cannot be recycled.

We are proud to say that more than 90% of Nestle packaging in the UK is recyclable and we are working hard to find solutions for that last 10%.

Thank you again for taking the trouble to contact us. We are grateful for the interest you have shown in our company.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Jones
Senior Officer
Nestlé Consumer Services

* = of course refuse, reduce and reuse should be done first, but anything which helps in the recycling line is to be welcomed in my view.


  1. But here's a conflict in interests - I'm boycotting Nestle.


  2. Esther - in this instance Kenco are the ones who've actually taken the trouble to give us an option to recycle their packets. Nestle don't at the moment, nor do Douwe Egberts but both are touting their bags as being eco friendly.

  3. I love the TerraCycle concept, but was a bit disappointed to see that most of the things I might be interested in buying aren't currently available. Guess they are waiting for enough of the raw materials. But. Of the products they are currently collecting we could only feasibly contribute to the writing instruments one, but there they suggest waiting until you have 5kg worth! Brilliant for, say, a school or large office, not so great for an individual. Still, great idea, and I'll keep an eye out for when they widen their range of "brigades" (such a martial name!).

  4. Janet - I found the USA version of the website before the UK one and there's a lot more product 'brigades' (dreadful name) on that website, hence my thinking it's relatively new in the UK. The bit about 5kg batches is also what made me think it's aimed more at community groups rather than individuals. However, it is a step in the right direction and I can see schools and charities finding it a useful source of income.

  5. It looks like a good idea, but like Janet, I would find it difficult to participate. Also, what is the carbon footprint of recycling the items collected? Is it upcycled in the UK or shipped overseas?

  6. In Seattle (USA) our recycling program was so successful that we overwhelmed the city at one point. In addition to the usual items we can recycle plastic grocery bags and some food containers. We also have "clean green" recycling which mean collecting all our plant debris and then selling it back to us as Clean Green Compost :-)

  7. I've been buying Kenco in bags for a while but hadn't noticed that they could be recycled. This is interesting - I hadn't heard of Terracycle - will look at the website and see if this could be useful in Corsham. Thanks!

  8. I'll be curious to see if Nestle responds!

    Had a good laugh from the comment you left on my Apple Butter Ride post. :-D

  9. off topic - we used to buy rows of small yoghurt pots. He likes this flavour, I like that. I used to take one to work each day. Then I decided we could buy one litre of yoghurt. One container, less packaging. Which we CAN recycle. Works for us ;~)

    Glad they have begun to recycle tetrapak in South Africa. We drink a lot of boxed fruit juice.

    None of these recycling initiatives work, unless we can and do buy the recycled product. I'm disconcerted by US gardeners using crushed glass, as mulch in the garden. NOT how I understand recycling.

  10. Dobby - good questions - perhaps some follow up work with Terracycle is needed :)

    Kath - we have similar schemes here too, thank goodness. I must remember to arrange a tour round our local recycling centre

    Lu - I thought it might be something Transcoco would be interested in :)

    Susan - they've replied!

    EE - it's not off topic at all :)

    Like you I buy a large yoghurt pot and add my own fruit. Much nicer. However, NAH won't touch natural yoghurt in any form!

  11. Bit late again, but I just wanted to add to Esther's comment - the reason for boycotting Nestle

  12. Juliet - thanks for that, though take note: my post wasn't exactly putting Nestle in a good light either.


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