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Merlo Coffee set to convert 3 million cups into compost

Queensland icon, Merlo Coffee, has turned up the heat on its goal of saving more than 3 million Merlo takeaway cups from landfill each year, already diverting more than 37 tonnes of organics in 2019 through its compostables initiative.

In late 2018, the business teamed up with BioPak to introduce fully compostable cups and lids for customers, that are then sent to organics recyclers such as NuGrow.

The initiative has made impressive headway, with NuGrow, Merlo’s major recycling partner, already manufacturing more than 1,100m³ of compost using Merlo’s organics as inputs since January.

The revegetation potential from that compost alone tops 22 hectares, and contributes to greening road projects, residential developments, parks, gardens and more – proof that sustainability leadership in business makes a difference.

Merlo Coffee Founder, Dean Merlo, said the company wanted to find a way to prevent disposable material from its 16 stores ending up in landfill, and making that a reality was not difficult.

“The entire Merlo team was really on board with this from the start,” Dean said.

“We consulted closely with our café staff and worked with waste collection services to make it easy for our customers to take part,” he said.

“Our customers love it and started using the recycling bins right from the start. Most people tell us they want to do more to look after the environment and this is one easy way they can participate.”

Counting the economic cost didn’t deter the business from taking their leadership stance in the retail coffee industry.

“It does cost Merlo a little more to use compostable cups, but it’s a cost we’re happy to wear, and our customers still pay the same price for their coffee,” Dean said.

“I think people are increasingly looking to companies to implement sustainable business practices. It’s becoming a consumer expectation, and rightly so,” he said.

“We partnered with NuGrow, an innovative revegetation service, to turn the waste from our stores into healthy, garden-ready compost.

“That’s a fantastic feeling knowing that every takeaway coffee sold at a Merlo café is helping to revegetate the earth.”

NuGrow, Queensland’s leader in recycling and revegetation excellence, receives an approximate 90 per cent share of Merlo’s organics in Queensland, recycling the compostable cups, lids, coffee grounds, food scraps and packaging into high-grade compost.

NuGrow’s Chief Strategy Officer, Peter Thompson, said Merlo is ahead of its peers when it comes to sustainable waste management, like its use of alternatives such as compostable coffee cups.

“Merlo Coffee was the first coffee business in Queensland to take part in BioPak’s compostable cup service and that corporate commitment – and integrity to customers – we hope will ultimately lead to mass adoption,” Peter said.

“Partnering with brands like Merlo is a priority for NuGrow as the shift toward compostable plastic alternatives picks up, driven by community expectations around sustainability, and the economic benefits of waste diversion due to Queensland’s recently introduced landfill levy,” he said.

“NuGrow is thrilled that Merlo and its transport partners, SUEZ and Cleanaway, are engaging NuGrow’s recycling service, not only because it’s competitive and efficient, but also because of the true circular economy we can support through compost manufacturing and revegetation.”

Using these recycled materials for future coffee crops may be the perfect circle, but the progress in the meantime is greening the famous Merlo blue – and our local landscapes.