Ethical Bean Coffee Launches New Recycling Pilot Project

Take your empty coffee bags to an EBX location or the Ethical Bean Café & Roastery for this new pilot initiative

News from Scout supporter Ethical Bean Coffee Company

Vancouver, BC | Ethical Bean Coffee launches a new recycling program on Monday, March 22nd that will reduce the number of coffee bags in landfills and will put a hot cup of coffee into the hands of the environmentally conscious in return.

Eco-conscious coffee lovers are invited to bring their empty coffee bags to the Ethical Bean Xpress drop-boxes located at the Granville Skytrain station and Commercial Skytrain station, or to the Ethical Bean Café and roasting facility at 1315 Kootenay Street in East Vancouver. Those who bring in 5 bags or more at a time will receive an extra treat: a cup of fresh drip coffee on the house. Additionally, all recyclers who write their name and email address on the side of their bags before returning them will be entered each week into a draw for a free pound of coffee. This program isn’t just limited to Vancouverites. Anyone across Canada can mail their empty coffee bags, along with their name and email address, to Ethical Bean Coffee, 1315 Kootenay Street, Vancouver, BC V5K 4Y3 and be entered into the weekly draw.

All empty coffee bags brought to Ethical Bean will be turned into energy at the Waste to Energy Facility (WTEF) in South Burnaby. Every year the WTEF turns roughly 280,000 tonnes of garbage into 900,000 tonnes of steam. The steam is then used to produce electricity. Considering what a coffee loving community Vancouver is, Ethical Bean is certain that their new initiatives will make a difference.

Says Ethical Bean co-founder Lloyd Bernhardt, “Ethical Bean is committed to being just and better, in everything that we do. That’s why we’re embarking upon a consumer driven coffee bag recycling program and accepting all coffee bags – even those of our competitors – and turning them from waste into energy.” All used coffee bags brought to Ethical Bean will be transported to the WTEF facility in a hybrid vehicle and any carbon created in the trip will be offset by carbon credits to Plug into Green Canada.

The program will rely heavily on the help of eco-conscious consumers. Says Bernhardt, “we’ve been working tirelessly for years to develop a more ecologically sound coffee bag. Once we have a solution that safely protects the quality of our coffee and the hard work of farmers that is more environmentally sound, we will introduce it. For the time being we feel this is the best solution for our customers, and all environmentally aware coffee drinkers.”

Ethical Bean Xpress will be accepting coffee bags at their drop-boxes from 6:00AM to 6:00PM Monday to Friday, and 8:00AM to 4:00PM on Saturdays. The Ethical Bean Café and Roastery will accept bags from 8:00AM to 5:00PM Monday to Friday.

About Ethical Bean

  • Ethical Bean Coffee Company
  • Ethical Bean Coffee Company
  • Ethical Bean Coffee Company
  • Ethical Bean Coffee Company
  • Ethical Bean Coffee Company

Ethical Bean Coffee Company roasts only 100% Fair Trade Certified and certified organic coffees from around the world. The Vancouver, BC, based company is committed to ensuring small-scale farmers receive a fair price for their efforts so they can sustain their businesses and provide a decent standard of living for their families. Ethical Bean coffee is roasted in Vancouver in a 100% carbon neutral facility built to LEED CI standards.


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There are 50 comments

  1. This is not recycling. It is not zero waste either. It’s incineration, and it’s not sustainable.
    Once you burn something, all you are left with is the carbon footprint.
    Check with and the Fraser Valley Regional District for their perspective on Waste To Energy.

  2. I hope that there will be a quiet retraction of this announcement and cancellation of the events next Monday.

    The incineration industry is exploiting public confusion and anxiety about waste to convince us to burn waste as a form of “recycling.” The only ones who gain from this is the incinerator companies. Incinerators are landfills in the sky. They destroy resources that will be needed by future generations.

    Ethical Bean can regain the high ground by taking a strong stand against incineration.

  3. Ya right. So much better to truck shit all the way to Cache Creek. The previous two comments sound like so much nimbyism to me.

  4. I would argue that many waste-to-energy critics are the ones exploiting public confusion. When done correctly, waste to energy is clean, viable process. The technology has come a long way. Europe has been doing this for years with fantastic results. Until we achieve true cradle-to-cradle design processes, waste to energy is one of the better options out there!

  5. …with that in mind, I agree completely that waste-to-energy does not fall under the category of “recycling.” Let’s call it what it is…

  6. Everything we do at Ethical Bean is measured against the just better tag line that is on our bags.

    The research shows that converting a coffee bag into energy is a better solution than having it do nothing in a landfill for eternity. Is it the best or our final solution? No. Being better means never stopping and constantly improving.

    It is also not just to farmers or consumers to use bag materials that may be more recycleable or biodegradeable if they do not keep the coffee fresh or safe, which unfortunately, they do not.

    We are working on other alternatives and we will implement them as soon as we can.

    If anyone has ideas to better deal with this issue, I am all ears.

  7. Lloyd, I would hope that ethical bean says what it means and that you wouldn’t just say that your organic or that you only purchase fair trade beans when you don’t. In this context you have used the term “recycling” in a completely irresponsible way. Under provincial statutes, sending your waste to an incinerator is not recycling. I am sure the burner promoters have told you something else; however, this makes me question your diligence in ensuring what you say, you have researched and you know to be fact. Otherwise you are simply adding more greenwash to sell more product.

  8. Interesting conversation here. While I’m no pro when it comes to eco-semantics, I can’t help but wonder at your comment, Keith. Isn’t the disposal of a product in such a way as to turn it into energy (in this case, electrical) not too far astray from the very definition of what it means to recycle? Surely bottles into polymers and such aren’t the limits of the practice? Regardless, I think your use of the loaded term “irresponsible” in this instance might be a little presumptuous.

    My two cents. Keep it up, nice and clean. 🙂

  9. Burning a coffee bag in an incinerator is not “converting” it to energy. You are “liberating” some of the energy in the chemical bond — but at the same time sending the carbon molecules up into the atmosphere, where they hasten climate change. It is more prudent, in fact, to bury these carbon molecules in a landfill underground than to put them in a landfill in the sky.

    Also, the energy you liberate is 8 times less than the energy you have to use to make a new bag.

  10. Hi Scout Mag. I use the term “irresponsible” to challenge Lloyd to point to the rules and regulations and prove to me that incineration = recycling, in the same way he uses labels to prove his organic and fair trade product. It is Ethical Bean that is using the term “recyclable” to promote their product and it’s their obligation to the consumer to prove the claim. As for your thought about recycling.. I think the point you miss is that when you reuse and recycle you eliminate the need to go back to the earth for more raw resources. Incineration is detruction of the raw resource creating the need to go back to the earth for more. When Ethical Bean comes up with a reuseable/refillable package or take their packaging back for the purpose of remanufacturing into a new one, this so called recycling program is “greenwash”.

  11. I advise anyone unclear on what zero waste is to look at the zero waste definition by the zero waste international alliance. It specifically excludes incineration. Recycling means to put the materials back into the useful cycle which decreases the need for virgin product. Burning these bags does not do this. In addition, the metrics of the energy saved are also questionable. Research has shown that if we really care about energy, we will reduce and recycle (in the usual sense of the word, not this misused version) which will save far more energy than the small amount that may get returned by burning them.

    Better options would be larger bags (so there are fewer of them), light-weighting them, using reusable bags or failing that, compostable or recyclable material. Ethical Bean could also offer bulk beans that the consumers could use their own containers. I applaud Ethical Bean for its intent, too bad the execution is so entirely misguided and using the language of greenwashing.

    If it were my company, I would do some more homework on zero waste and waste reduction. If I really thought burning waste was an option, I would also do the research to see the effects of the ensuing pollution (health and environmental). I would be surprised if I still thought burning was a solution in any way. Don’t believe the hype.

  12. Hi Etihical Bean I love your coffee but I am concerned about your support for the use of incineration. I love that you are doing a take back program but incinerators are carbon intensive and toxic.

    Yes the technology has gott…en better but there still is still no magic way to get rid of garbage. Ultimately this is still burning garbage and thats not the right thing to do.

    The new pollution scrubbers have just made the pollution particles smaller and these tiny “nano-particles” are not even being studied properly. Nano-particles may in fact be more dangerous because they can pass through cell membranes. Also there still is toxic ash left over that needs to be careful stored. At the end of the day there is no such … See Morething as throwing things “away”… its either a landfill in the ground or a landfill in the sky. If something sounds to good to be true it usually is. Don’t believe the hype of the PR wizards pushing for new waste incinerators.

    Also you should know that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly states that the carbon emissions from these facilities must be calculated in the same way we calculate emissions from any power plant running on fossil fuels. Much of the benefits of switching from landfill to incinerator has more to do with creative accounting then actually emission reduction. The methane from landfills can be captured and stored. That is the responsible thing to do as we work towards zero waste not create a carbon intensive inefficient source of dirty energy. Waste to energy incinerators are carbon intensive. Meanwhile we live in a province that is the model for renewable energy. We use publicly owned hydro power. Why introduce a carbon intensive fuel source? This is not the way to create renewable energy and any public funds dedicated to this instead of improved compost and recycling is a step in the wrong direction.

    Why not make your packaging re-usable or recyclable or compostable. I am sure you have fully explored these options but please stay open to looking for better solutions. My guess is that folks would rather pay the true cost of a better product instead of supporting the hidden costs of burning garbage.

    Your public support for waste to energy come in the midst of a very controversial debate about expanding the use of these facilities in the lower mainland of Vancouver. I am sure your intentions are good but I fear you are allowing your company to be used to push forward what is in fact bad public policy. A network of concerned groups and individuals has signed on to a statement opposing waste incineration in BC. Please check out the statement at The citation that goes with the statement may be useful to you.

    If you would like to continue this discussion please feel free to contact me. There will be a lot of opportunities to dialouge about this in the near future as this debate continues. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and your efforts to do the right thing.

    Ben West

  13. Keith,

    Thank you for your comments. Improvement is only possible when we try new things and are not afraid of criticism or failure.

    I agree with you that the term “recycling” is inaccurate and we have changed the language to be more descriptive of the process. The signs at the pilot drop off stations and our communications now reference the process as being transformative. Instead of recycling we are giving consumers the choice to turn their used coffee bags into energy if they like.

    You used the words fair trade and organic and voice concerns about our claims. All of Ethical Bean’s coffee is fair trade certified and certified organic. Consumers need to look for both the TransFair and Organic logos on the coffee that they buy. If you look closely, most coffee roasters are not 100% certified organic and fair trade. That is also why we were 100% open with what we are doing with the bags returned to the three pilot locations. I believe that generating electricity is a better short term answer than putting more material into landfills. If you or others disagree with me, you can choose not to return coffee bags to us.

    We never stop trying to be better and that is why we are continuing to develop and test new materials for coffee packaging. When we have something that we believe is better, we will introduce it, likely as a pilot, and get feedback so we can continue to improve.

  14. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for the post. Our bags are 14 grams in when not filled. I am going to try to figure out how much energy and carbon are released when they are used to generate electricity. When I find out, I will share that information.

    Every day, 830 tonnes of garbage are taken to the Waste-to-Energy Facility in Burnaby. Otherwise this garbage would be trucked to Cache Creek, some 330 kilometers north. I wonder what the carbon footprint is for the trucking, burying and subsequent off gassing of the dump is? I will try to find out and if I do, I will post the results so they can be compared to the carbon footprint of the WTEF. I also wonder what the people in Cache Creek think of us sending them our garbage.

    Here is some information that I saw on the WTEF’s web site.

    ISO 14001
    The WTEF is International Standard Organization (ISO) 14001 certified. This is an international environmental management protocol to ensure compliance, ongoing monitoring and continual improvements.
    Mercury control The WTEF has one of the first carbon injection systems installed in North America to reduce mercury emissions. Mercury emissions at the plant are one- tenth of the allowable limit.

    NOx control An ammonia injection system reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
    Zero liquid discharge

    The WTEF has no discharges (excluding washrooms) to the sewer system. This means reduced impacts to the environment by minimizing water use and lowering demand on the sewerage system.

    Air emission control
    Strict control over combustion conditions, such as temperature and air flow, minimizes the amount of pollutants created. Environmental protection technology is then used to treat air emissions. These emissions are continuously monitored and regulated under provincial legislation, which is among the most stringent found in the world today.
    Monthly reports are submitted to the Provincial Ministry of Environment. Independent stack tests are performed three times a year to test for acid gases, total hydrocarbons, metals, and particulate matter.
    The Lower Fraser Valley Air Quality Monitoring Network continuously monitors the ambient air environment at 30 sites throughout the Lower Mainland. No measurable impact has ever been found from the WTEF.

    Fifty per cent of the waste generated in the GVRD is recycled, and we are working hard to increase that number.

    To help all of us reduce our impact on the environment, the GVRD Board has adopted a “Zero Waste Challenge.” This challenge is a step toward developing a new Solid Waste Management Plan and an opportunity to educate our residents about waste reduction. For more information, please visit

    I am a coffee roaster and like to think that I am running a responsible business. That is why we are taking a comprehensive cradle to grave approach to our products. We welcome any feedback that improves the lives of coffee farmers, our operation and the environment. It will take many ideas and lots of debate for us to make the world a better place.

    Let’s keep the discussion going.

  15. Hi Sue,

    I wanted to share some of the things that we have learned about packaging that hopefully will address your questions.

    “Better options would be larger bags (so there are fewer of them).”
    Two pound bags of Ethical Bean Coffee are available at BC Costco stores. Cafes and other foodservice businesses get their coffee in 5 lb bags.

    “Light-weighting them”
    We have decreased the amount of material in our bags over the few years we have been around. See next comment for why we have been unable to make them thinner.

    “Using reusable bags or failing that, compostable or recyclable material.”
    Coffee oils make reusing bags on a large scale not food safe. I, for one, would not like to put my coffee in a bag that was returned by someone else. Our tests on compostable and fully recyclable bags have yet to pass the stringent needs of food safety and coffee freshness.

    “Ethical Bean could also offer bulk beans that the consumers could use their own containers.”
    Our coffee is available in bulk bins at a number of locations. See

  16. Hi Ben,

    I think I have addressed most of your issues in other posts.

    I find it encouraging that the response to our taking ownership of the waste of our product has prompted such a vocal response. Discussion is good.

    The WTEF currently incinerates 20% of the lower mainlands garbage. All Ethical Bean is doing for this 3 bin pilot project is giving coffee consumers the option of directing the empty bags to this facility. If you throw 5 empty bags in your garbage the odds are that one of them will be used to generate electricity instead of being buried for eternity like the other 4. As I mentioned in other posts, we are working hard so that no coffee bags end up in the landfill or are incinerated. The industry is just not there yet but we are continuing to try to work on better solutions.

    I will take a look at the report. Thanks for the link.

  17. Hi Lloyd,

    By the time your coffee bags get to the incinerator, it is too late to solve the real problem, which is a business model of marketing coffee through a supply chain that requires hermetically sealed packages.

    I buy my coffee from a small neighbourhood coffee roaster who receives shipments of green beans in burlap. I take home my roasted beans in paper-based bags with a poly liner. I bring back my bags to be refilled. I have a relationship with the roaster.

    The coffee I buy there is fair trade certified.

    Your business model deals with the front end of the coffee supply chain, but it supports the environmentally and socially destructive back-end garbage incinerators.

  18. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for keeping the discussion going. I have tried to address your points below.

    “By the time your coffee bags get to the incinerator, it is too late to solve the real problem, which is a business model of marketing coffee through a supply chain that requires hermetically sealed packages.
    I buy my coffee from a small neighbourhood coffee roaster who receives shipments of green beans in burlap. I take home my roasted beans in paper-based bags with a poly liner. I bring back my bags to be refilled. I have a relationship with the roaster.”

    Interesting points. Food safety and freshness when the product travels are key concerns and have to be addressed by food manufactures that sell their products away from where they are created. We too receive our green coffee in burlap bags. Most of these bags are given to Lee Valley Tools. They collect a $2 fee for these bags and donate all the money to Land Conservancy Canada and the United Way. This has been a very successful project for both of us and I believe a good reuse of the burlap sacks. The remaining sacks we have left over are donated to other local causes. Sack races are my favourite.

    The kraft bags with a liner are ok for very limited shelf life and freshness applications. These bags essentially provide no barrier to oxygen and limited protection to other elements. How many uses are you able to get out of them before they deteriorate? Can you take the bag apart and recycle the paper and plastic portions separately? Better shelf life and product safety also reduces the wastage of stale and poor quality coffee due to poor storage.

    “The coffee I buy there is fair trade certified.”
    Good to hear. Is the coffee also certified organic? Does the roaster you buy from put an organic logo on their bags? The reason I ask is because there are a number of coffee roasters buy organic green coffee but themselves are not a certified organic processor. If the roaster is not certified, the supply chain and product cannot be certified. Certified facilities are inspected regularly.

    “Your business model deals with the front end of the coffee supply chain, but it supports the environmentally and socially destructive back-end garbage incinerators.”
    I disagree. I suspect that we have a larger coffee roaster than the local coffee roaster you buy from. Our roaster is state-of-the-art and uses much less natural gas than a smaller conventional coffee roaster. In a lot of the cases, a larger roaster is much more efficient than a smaller one. Economies of scale and all that. So without knowing the natural gas consumption per pound of coffee roasted one cannot compare us. I am not sure if you know but we purchase carbon offsets so that the coffee that is on the shelf is carbon neutral from our roastery to the store. With our pilot project all we are doing is giving you the choice to return your bag so it can be turned into electricity. If you choose to dispose of the bag in other ways that is up to you.

  19. As I said on Twitter, hat’s off to Ethical Bean for taking responsibility for its packaging. I also appreciate how quickly you acknowledged that this is not recycling . Language is powerful, and given the broader waste and energy politics going on in BC, it’s important we’re all clear.

    Given the discussion here, this seems like a good place to park my response to Ethical Bean’s tweet asking for clarity about the term recyclable.

    Scoutmag, incineration is very far astray from recycling. Imagine the outrage if municipalities started sending their blue box recyclables to the Burnaby incinerator!

    Companies wishing to do their due diligence on this issue would do well to turn to BC’s Recycling Regulation. It clearly distinguishes between incineration and recycling. Here’s a clip from the section for beverage containers:

    Schedule 1
    8 (1) A producer must ensure that its redeemed containers are refilled or recycled.
    (2) A person must not dispose of redeemed containers in a landfill or incinerator.

    The clause was purposefully included to stimulate green design and not give beverage producers an easy out. In fact, the reg has another clause that specifically says that beverages can only be sold in containers that are refillable or recyclable.

    Another term to be clear on is zero waste. It’s not just zero waste to landfill. It’s zero waste to landfill AND incineration. As Sue says, see the ZWIA page. If you want a government policy example, see the recent policy adopted by the US EPA – “Zero waste to landfills and incinerators by 2012.”


    Lloyd, I applaud you for taking back your packaging – and I urge you to leapfrog over incineration as fast as possible into truly transformative solutions.

    The risk for green and socially conscious businesses is this: Do you want to be seen as a poster child for incineration – or innovation?

    Here are some suggestions to help make the transition from incineration to innovation:

    1. Make a public commitment to fully switch your disposable packaging to refillable or recyclable containers by 2015. Incidentally, that’s the year that Metro Vancouver intends to fire up its new incinerator(s).

    2. Kick off your commitment by adding your company name to Zero Waste British Columbia’s sign on statement for a moratorium on new waste-to-energy facilities in British Columbia. You’ll join esteemed leaders like Paul Hawken, author of the Ecology of Commerce, who was one of the first to sign on, calling them “waste-to-entropy.”

    3. Research the heck out of design alternatives. Some fun, free ideas – have a design charette with industrial designers, run a contest, invite video submissions, etc.

    You won’t have to go far for design solutions. At least one of your competitors sells their beans in gorgeous steel containers – fully recyclable. You can outdo them with your fair trade, organic status – and up the ante by making the container from recycled content. Better yet, consider selling bulk beans in your cafes and offer discounts for BYOC.

    In response to a direct tweet from EB to contact them with my suggestions, I emailed last week (it may still be in the system), and I look forward to meeting you and helping any way I can. Meanwhile, thanks for opening up this healthy debate. I appreciate the dialogue.

    Monica Kosmak
    Principal, Garbage Critic Consulting

  20. Steel coffee containers /tins are not the answer either. The energy involved in creating them is incredibly high, and the bulky tins are shipped over from China (where the environment is pretty low on the list of priorities at the moment). Hardly a minimal carbon footprint, hmmm?

    These tins just end up in the recycling container – very few get reused. I don’t think they are a viable alternative to any other packaging.

  21. Hi Monika,

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

    We certainly hope to have a recyclable solution by 2015! I am thinking in much smaller time horizons.

    I am quite aware of the steel cans you mention and I do not think they are the answer. As I understand it, these cans are made in the eastern US and transported to BC empty (big carbon footprint) and the environmental cost of a 154g steel can has to be much more that a 14 gram bag. If the can is recycled, I would think that the energy needed is to do so is substantial.

    As a point of reference for shipping, a palette of empty coffee bags holds 10,000 units. At best, I think you could get 1000 cans on a skid.

    I prefer to start with less packaging and solve what do do with the bag once empty.

  22. I’m a big fan of EB, and a very loyal customers. Up to now. I can’t believe EB has been seduced by the WTE lobby and its fact-free rhetoric. I’ve done my research on WTE, and as sexy as it may seem, it’s just not the answer. Lloyd, it may seem like a good idea now, but you’re going about this the wrong way. CHANGE YOUR PACKAGING. Be a leader: aim for zero waste to WTE and landfills.
    The promo of WTE is starting to taste like the bitter brew of greenwash. Poor packaging decisions are ethical, beans (and customers) deserve better. Until EB changes course, I’m switching to JJ Beans where bags are recycled, recyclable, and there’s no hassle or misinformation. Thanks for the offer Lloyd, but I choose to pass on the extra shot of air pollution for us and our neighbours in the Valley. / Isa

  23. Too funny! This blog removed the “UN” in front of the word “ethical” in my message. That’s just a tad suspicious… 😉
    Here’s how it was originally typed to read:
    “The promo of WTE is starting to taste like the bitter brew of greenwash. Poor packaging decisions are UNethical, beans (and customers) deserve better.”

  24. Anyone else find the self-righteous tone of some of these comments excruciating? Those who’ve been the most nauseatingly accusatory are extremely poor ambassadors for change. For shame. Get over yourselves. Fast.

  25. For another take on burning waste, see the latest Watershed Sentinel article

    Also, thanks Lloyd for your responses. I agree that there are many points to consider when redesigning packaging and I like Monica’s idea of a design competition to get new ideas that consider all of your company’s needs.

    For milk, I like the Avalon glass containers that get washed and reused. Perhaps there is a solution with reusable steel or glass that can meet the freshness, transport and waste concerns.

  26. Sue and Monica — love the idea of a redesign competition to provide more options for “packaging for sustainability”. Also, groups like Fairware may have ideas re/best options for packaging that doesn’t cost the earth to make, and once we’re done with it!. /Isa

  27. Hi Isabelle,

    Thanks for being a fan of EB – we appreciate you passion and instead of hiding what we are doing, we are being 100% transparent on our actions.

    A number of the items that you bring up are addressed in previous posts so I will not reiterate them. I will comment on some of the points you made though.

    “I can’t believe EB has been seduced by the WTE lobby and its fact-free rhetoric. I’ve done my research on WTE, and as sexy as it may seem, it’s just not the answer. ”

    I have not been seduced – I am way too rational for that! We have carefully looked at what can be done with packaging once it has outlived it’s use. Options are to a) truck it to a landfill in the middle of the province and bury it for ever – not my idea of good carbon sequestering or waste management, b) liberate the stored energy by incineration and produce electricity and less waste than option a. We are continuously looking for a “c” option. I am investigating the environmental footprint and will post what I find here when I can.

    “Until EB changes course, I’m switching to JJ Beans where bags are recycled, recyclable, and there’s no hassle or misinformation.”

    Hmm, have you researched this? I am pretty sure that the plastic/foil bags that JJ uses are made of the same material as ours… I am not sure about their other packaging.

    At ethical bean we look at social and environmental sustainability holistically, that is why we rely on 3rd party verification for all of our claims. You might want to see what JJ and others are doing regarding certified fair trade.

  28. Whoops! looks like I created a diversion with my (hypothical, recycled-content, refillable!) steel container suggestion. I mentioned it as a possible “blueprint” (though that’s not quite the right word) for a potential solution, one that seems to maintain freshness. (Though I wonder why there’s no vent?)

    Lloyd, great to hear your excitement about a design contest. Could be a fun way to solve your problem and raise awareness about the issue. A full life cycle assessment could be a good way to evaluate the outcomes. LCA isn’t perfect, but it can be helpful for guiding decisions. (Transportation, for instance, is a small part of the total life cycle – but understandably a challenge for you because it’s a major cost centre.)

    It’s great to see how much discussion this has generated. Clearly people are passionate about the subject! Thanks Scout Mag for keeping the comments open.

    This’ll be my final post here, but Lloyd let’s keep talking.


  29. Lloyd, to your question about rules for a design comp – I’d have to give it some thought. In the meantime, there’s probably some good ideas on the web.

    Wait, here’s an idea – You might look into design charettes for architects and landscape architects for community developments and building design? And video it to advertise your effort?

    Now THAT would be fun!

  30. I hope that all of you against food-safe coffee bags are also writing to the toothpaste, cold cut, raw meat and anything covered in a plastic overwrap or film companies, to name a few, that give you packaging that can’t be recycled either.

  31. On air pollution from incinerators versus CO2 emissions…
    There is far more (even in the nano sized range) than just CO2 emitted by incineration. If dumping it in a landfill is not an option to you, please consider that along with CO2 you are emitting many heavy metals into the atmosphere which at least in a landfill would be contained (efforts are done as best possible to prevent seapage and environmental damage, using barriers, etc.and work and research is continuous to find better solutions, including recycling, composting, even “garbage mining” )

    These metals include Mercury, Arsenic, Cupper, Lead, and many more. The health effects of these are drastic and can be found all over. It is too long to post here so I will leave it for study.
    From the data in “Quantitave assessment of worldwide contamination of air, water and soils by trace metals” by Jerome O. Nriagu, and Josef M. Pacyna, the amounts for “Refuse incineration, municipal” is as follows (all in tonnes/yr):
    As (arsenic) = 154 – 392
    Cd (cadmium) = 56 -1,400
    Cr (Chromium) = 98 – 980
    Cu (copper) = 142 – 2,840
    Hg (mercury) = 140 – 2,100
    Mn (Manganese) = 252 – 1,260
    Ni (nickel) = 98 – 420
    Pb (Lead) = 1,400 – 2,800
    Sb (Antimony) = 420 – 840
    Se (Selenium) = 28 – 70
    Sn (Tin) = 140 -1,400
    and finally Zn (Zinc) = 2,800 – 8, 400
    Many of these cannot be removed from the air leaving incinerators, less so even than they can be our garbage. Several, like Mercury emitted, even when in undetectable quantities, and due to their stability, accumulate in species and work their way up the food chain, as many people know this a concern with eating too much fish and has been reported often. Needless to say I am very concerned about “liberating” these from our garbage, and adding even more of these pollutants to the air we breathe, as well as the surrounding environment.

    Thank you for considering that people may not want garbage dumps near where they live. However, I’m also sure that the people in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley (who recieve the cities pollution due to wind and topography patterns) do not want to breathe more of this from the incinerators in Burnaby.

    I have noticed that several comments consider the effects of recycling cost, energy and producing carbon when travel is included. Please consider how much energy is required to obtain raw materials during mining processes, the dangerous chemicals used during extraction, the effect of mine tailings, along with the transportation of these materials as well.
    ( please note I am well aware that metals obtained by mining are essential in many ways. Recycling, or recycle mining, which is proven to reduce environmental and health impacts should be used first)

    It is truly amazing the processes which are being implemented and could be done here. I urge you to please consider improvements on recycling, reusable (and safe) packaging which is efficient for your company and those who enjoy your coffee. UBC students included, it is the main coffee served in our cafeterias, which make use of compostable cups, cuttlery, take out containers, etc.

    Thank you,
    From a concerned Environmental Science Student at UBC

    ps. to Gil, please help us in reaching all these companies 🙂 It is a difficult task. They are not all so easy to contact, willing to listen and/or have discussions as yours truly, Ethical Bean.

  32. I’m following this conversation and its very interesting though no one has offered alternative ways of dealing with the situation. I think the Ethical Bean people are trying to do the best they can – would it be better had they ignored the problem?

    From reading their press release they ARE looking for alternatives to incineration and they’ll jump on it if it comes along.

  33. Katherine
    I wish I had the addresses to all the companies whose packaging isn;t recycled, recyclable or reusable. I am amazed at the amount of plastic wrapping and non-recyclable plastics in the weekly grocery trip. I collect the films and have a place to bring this so it can be recycled/reused instead of becoming garbage.
    I suspect that with tightening food safety rules in the US and Canada the direction will be less for reusing packaging and more towards single use packaging.
    At one time all milk, beer and soft drinks were in glass containers? The cost of handling and cleaning these when cost prohibitive compared with disposable units. I hope products will be developed soon that provide food safety while minimizing their footprint.
    I also suspect packaging producers realize there is a lucrative market awaiting those developing products that consumers want and therefore manufacturers will want. Hopefully coffee bags are not far away.

  34. Thank you to all of you that commented on this very passionate issue. I firmly believe that debate, open discussion and bold action are necessary for our survival as a species. I particularly want to thank Ben West, Monica Kosman and Patrica Ross for taking the time to meet with me. I learned a lot from all of you, enjoyed our spirited discussions on the issues of WTE, the garbage life cycle and corporate responsibility. I am inspired by your commitment to the environment. The planet needs more people like you who constructively work hard to make the world a better place.

    We did not have all of this information on WTE when we started this pilot project and it is a good thing that we started small. I have have since read quite a lot about the facility in Burnaby and based on what I have learned, I am not comfortable sending Ethical Bean’s coffee bags there at this time.

    We will still collect all coffee bags at the three pilot locations (Granville and Commercial Skytrain Ethical Bean Express locations and our roastery cafe) and we will store them until we find a better solution to solve this problem in an environmentally sound manner. It is the responsibility of all manufactures to understand and take ownership of the complete life cycle of their products. That includes Ethical Bean. So, please return your bags (competitors coffee bags too), come back to our cafes for a coffee and talk with us. Challenge other companies to take responsibility for their products too. Together we can constructively make a difference.

    Please note, that no coffee bags were harmed (read – incinerated) in this pilot. They are impatiently waiting at our facility to ? Well, I don’t know yet. Be transformed into totes, insulation, funny looking hats? Your ideas on what to do with these bags are much appreciated, so keep the emails and posts coming.

  35. Lloyd, you are to be commended for making the effort to hear ALL the facts on this topic. We’d love to help you and other coffee vendors find a good sustainable solution to this packaging issue. Our Executive Director is going to phone you with an idea we’ve hatched to help get you started!

  36. Lloyd–WAY TO GO! I’m running back to my favourite coffee spot at Broadway skytrain station for my morning java. Thanks for being so open, accessible, willing to make a course correction–and not easily seduced! From this day on, I will only buy EB coffee beans, and sing your praises to anyone who will listen.

    I hope you’ll have opportunities to share with others all that you’ve learned about WTE from your research and discussions, and continue to speak up for truly sustainabile solutions to reducing waste.

    Count on my continued support–even if it means a customer donation–as you explore ways to “bag” a solution. /Isa

  37. Hats off to all of you in the thread, but especially to Lloyd. leadership like yours is what we need.

    I have seldom bought EB in the past. I will do so at every opportunity in the future.


  38. My hat is off to you Lloyd. This whole exercise is a testament to the importance of buying local and being connected to business owners like you that live right in our community. You have had to take and give a lot here but you have listened and you have taken the time to learn. We need to change; we need to make manufacturers responsible for the products they make. There is a solution to packaging coffee in a way we can reduce and maybe eliminate the impact on the environment; we just need to stop taking the easy disposal way out in order to get there! I agree it is a harder road to hoe but you know it wouldn’t be worth it otherwise 😉

    Good on you Lloyd!

  39. Way to go Lloyd and Ethical Bean! We have been having debates on incineration in my Environmental Science course at UBC, and I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that incineration is not the answer.

    The open discussion is really astounding, and not something that you see very often.


  40. Nice work, Lloyd. You are an example of transformational leadership. I admire your courage to listen to various perspectives and forge ahead as an informed innovator. You are making a difference in this world. Bravo!

  41. Nice work Lloyd. I am excited to see what ideas come up. I am aware of at least two groups that are interested in brainstorming on this issue that I am sure will be in touch with you if they have not connected already.

  42. Lloyd and Melanie, it was my pleasure to meet with you and talk longterm solutions. I’m impressed with your transparency, with your commitment to address the root cause (even if it’s daunting), and for taking corporate responsibility to the next level. “It is the responsibility of all manufactures to understand and take ownership of the complete life cycle of their products,” you said. I’m going to quote you everywhere on that in hopes that you inspire more companies! Meanwhile, I’m committed to helping you find your way out of the waste maze.

    I jumped in because I’m concerned that (intentionally or not by those that put the information out there) garbage is being re-branded as clean, renewable energy at the provincial level, and incineration is being disguised as a cornerstone in a “zero waste” strategy at the regional level. The information being presented is one-sided and short-sighted, and, as you discovered, can be misleading.

    With climate change, resource depletion and widespread pollution of toxins (like hormone disrupting chemicals), the worst thing we can do at this point in history is gloss over the status quo with shiny new names. It’s great to see you digging deeper.

    Thanks for your leadership – and the healthy debate!

  43. Its Ethical Bean for me from now on. Congratulations to all who participated in this exercise. Hand wringing earnestness aside, it just goes to show that if we care enough and learn enough, we will find our way. I’ve learned that while this is primarily a symbolic effort, the outcome can help us develop strategies to tackle even more challenging obstacles to sustainable communities.

    PS, I’m in the Insulation business, I’ll look into that…but funny hats would be cool too.

  44. Lloyd!

    I’ve been reading all these comments and boy are they long but it has been worthwhile! Your initiative and commitment to improving for the better of the environment will not go unnoticed! I’m sold for Ethical Bean and will even start buying coffee just to support your company! Thank you for being so responsive to all these comments. Also for lending an ear to everyone! Companies should look up to your initiative for this because not only is this initiative going to be for the good of the environment but can also unite people in this world of impersonality (too much?).

    This quote made my day. I never would have to to hear this from any company, ever. “Thank you to all of you that commented on this very passionate issue. I firmly believe that debate, open discussion and bold action are necessary for our survival as a species.”

    I love the competitions to spark people to get involved. I’m a big fan of funny looking hats and would love to see some!

    Like some of the comments made here, I recently also attended a Environmental Science class and had a talk on incineration and I had research on defending incineration, and boy are they compelling, until further digging on their arguments are made.

    By the way Lloyd, I’m working with a few friends in making a short documentary on incineration and recycling. Would you be interested in helping us with the film?


    PS. I just have a few comments on those who are for WTE facilities:

    When it comes to people talking about WTE facilities working and being “clean and green” in Europe, my question is how can burning something turnout to be clean? Yeah maybe the air around them was clean a few hours later, but wind could have carried that air over a large distance by then. Stack emissions also send things into the air and it becomes diluted. Although it was once said that the solution is dilution, I don’t know how reliable that belief is anymore. There still are emissions of very hazardous substances that can linger in the air or even in the land for long periods of time. Sooner or later that dilution will become accumulation. And with all these incinerators, the big question is what happens when we run out of garbage? We import? Now isn’t that a waste of energy?

    Furthermore, many of the arguments for incineration claim we save a barrel of oil or something like that when we incinerate a ton of garbage. The garbage can save a ton of oil, but how about how much oil it took to make that garbage? From raw material mining to the final product, by just burning it we destroy the very important cycle of garbage. Instead of it being reusable, garbage becomes ash, then what? How is this a renewable source? Energy is great but won’t we need less anyway if we stop making more? There always is a comparison of landfills with incinerators, when is recycling going to enter the picture?

    Okay I’ll stop now before I suck all the happiness and hope I was trying to promote in this message away. Good job Ethical Bean for being ethical to the world we live in!

  45. Way to go, Ethical Bean. I’m glad to see you taking the initiative. I’ll be passing this good news on, and hopefully you’ll be seeing more support for your great environmental leadership.