You know those metallized plastic bags that are often used to package coffee? Those have been bothering me for years: They’re not recyclable and not biodegradable, so when I throw them in the trash I know they’ll be in the landfill forever. And Daniel and I drink a lot of coffee!
[UPDATE: We changed to a different method of coffee-bag recycling in 2017.]
About a year ago, in the comments on someone’s blog about difficult recycling issues, I met up with Alessandro DiLella of Italian Coffee Handbags, a Dutch company that is making fashionable tote bags out of coffee bags. This gives that metallized plastic a new use and creates reusable bags that people can use for their shopping and other carrying needs, instead of single-use plastic or paper bags. (The Website is in Dutch, but if you write to the email address there, Mr. DiLella can correspond with you in English. I work for natives of the Netherlands who occasionally forward me emails in Dutch, so I’m accustomed to trying to read Dutch and find it pretty easy–knowing some German helps–and amusing, but here is a free online translator if you want to read it in English.)
I collected empty coffee bags until I had enough to fill a box, packed tightly; that was about 100 bags of various sizes. No, we don’t drink that much coffee! I hung up flyers in my office and my church encouraging people to give me their used coffee bags, and those were more than half of my collection. The flyer at church has actually attracted bags that I find thumbtacked to the bulletin board next to the flyer, possibly brought in by people attending other activities in the church building during the week. I appreciate that people want their bags to get repurposed!
Earlier this month, I mailed my box to the Netherlands. Postage was $27, which is disappointing, but Mr. DiLella may be able to reimburse me or compensate me with some free tote bags. I’d like that, but if it doesn’t work out, I don’t mind putting some money toward responsible disposal of packaging. Next time I’ll send a larger amount at once to get a better deal on postage.
Here’s Mr. DiLella’s photo of the array of exotic American coffee bags I sent, which he promptly posted on Instagram! (I can’t copy the photo into my post–is that something about Instagram, maybe?)
If you live in the Pittsburgh area and have coffee bags you want to give me, or if you live elsewhere in the United States and want to mail me your coffee bags at lower domestic postage rates, post a comment or email me!
I’m also very interested in hearing about any companies that are repurposing coffee bags in the United States. It seems like an obvious thing to do–think how many coffee bags must be discarded every day!–but I’m not aware of any.
Of course, one solution to the coffee-bag problem is to buy bulk coffee in your own reused containers. We do this a lot. But it’s hard to resist bagged coffee when it’s fair-trade and organic and on sale for less than the bulk price!
Visit Your Green Resource for more environmentally friendly ideas!