Most of us don’t stop to consider the amount of waste, plastic, expanded polystyrene (EPS), organics and other materials that it takes to produce, package and transport our daily cup of coffee from the tropics to our mugs. As a leading Canadian coffee producer, Van Houtte has considered all the bi-products and decided to do something to reduce its footprint. The company’s mandate is for zero waste to landfill and they’ve been taking steps to discover what materials currently end up at the dump can be recycled.

From l to r: Rob (Van Houtte), Grant (APRA), Brian (Van Houtte)

From l to r: Rob (Van Houtte), Grant (APRA), Brian (Van Houtte)

Van Houtte reached out to the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association (APRA) in the summer of 2014 to inquire about a solution EPS, which they use for packing and shipping. There are not many formal EPS recyclers within the province, though Airdrie and other municipalities are starting to accept EPS in their municipal collection. APRA’s executive director, Grant Cameron, was also aware of an industrial manufacturer in southern Alberta with a densifier (a machine that breaks down and melts EPS into plastic ingots that can be sold back to plastics manufacturers). An agreement was reached where Van Houtte ships the EPS every couple months for processing.

“Grant’s been a great resource for this program and other plastics recyclers,” commented Brian Murphy, Van Houtte Operations Manager. “He’s enabled us to access knowledge about recycling, without which we’d be making 500 phone calls.”

Since the fall, Van Houtte has diverted 1400 lbs of EPS from ending up in the landfill. According to Van Houtte’s District Service Manager, Rob Doughty, it was a win-win for the company as they divert materials from the landfill and save money in landfill fees at the same time.  Considering the make-up of EPS, large in size, though light weight, it is a huge pain to dispose of in a landfill where it takes up a lot of space.

Van Houtte believes their model is a process other businesses can follow as well. Here are some of their tips for businesses trying to reduce waste or find places to recycle:

1.   Find an expert such as industry groups or people connected who know about materials and where to recycle them.

2.    Partner with other organizations- Van Houtte uses Cascade as their waste management company. Anywhere Cascade can’t help they are able to direct to others who can.

3.    Leverage suppliers who share similar values about waste reduction.

4.   Partner with customers where possible- Van Houtte has asked customers to help re-purpose their K Cups. Customers collect the pods and they are shipped to a waste to energy facility. The pods are dried, shred and mixed with wood dust to burn instead of coal. Through this effort they collect approximately 10,800 lbs every 7.5 weeks.

“In every part of our business we’re trying to get ahead of the curve,” remarked Carolyn Jones, the District Manager. “We’re trying to find local solutions and be proactive.”

With Van Houtte’s aim for zero waste there are a number of other materials they are diverting from the landfill.

In the past seven months Van Houtte has collected .537 tonnes of plastic wrap, that’s enough to fill half of McMahon Stadium!

Recycling efforts

January to March 2015:

  • 1400 lbs of EPS
  • 3.75 Metric Tonnes (MT) of OCC, LDPE and Wood Skids
  • 0.07 MT of organics composted
  • 1020 beverage containers
  • 400 lbs of #5 plastic


  • 5.14 MT of OCC, LPDE, Wood Skids
  • 5.17 MT of Tin
  • 1854 bottles donated to the Missing Children Society and removed from the Landfill

Do you have plastics materials to be recycled? Contact APRA and we’ll do what we can to help!