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Madcap Coffee Company launches Zero Waste program

Madcap is working with two Grand Rapids businesses to ensure a more environmentally-friendly disposal of its material waste.
Madcap's new Zero Waste program creates compost to reduce waste send to landfills.

Madcap's new Zero Waste program creates compost to reduce waste send to landfills. /Courtesy of Madcap Coffee Company

Compost made from Madcap's degradable products and coffee grounds is used on local farms.

Compost made from Madcap's degradable products and coffee grounds is used on local farms. /Courtesy of Madcap Coffee Company

Compost consisting of Madcap's coffee grounds is used to grow mushrooms at Wellhouse GR's Urban Farm.

Compost consisting of Madcap's coffee grounds is used to grow mushrooms at Wellhouse GR's Urban Farm. /Courtesy of Madcap Coffee Company

The most common question asked at Madcap Coffee Company, according to Stacey Wieck, Cafe Manager, is “Do you have a trash can?”

The answer is no. Madcap has swapped its trash cans for bus bins as part of its Zero Waste program.

After establishing direct partnerships with international growers to ensure the harvesting of quality products, Madcap is now ensuring its practice of being socially responsible doesn't just end once coffee reaches customers' hands.

“If you look at a business and you think they make great food, they grow their food, they know where its coming from, but if it ends right there... then that whole process, the image of that business isn’t complete,” says Wieck. “[Zero Waste] completes that image that we want to hold, that standard quality awareness that people really look for and connect with.”

Zero Waste aims to reduce the coffee shop’s waste by recycling and composting materials that would otherwise end up at a landfill. The program was born from the idea of employee Dave Battjes, a Seattle native.

“There's a long history of environmentalism [in Seattle] and living green is just a natural part of life there. It made me think more about a business’ responsibility for sustainability,” says Battjes. “When I was hired at Madcap, I saw the need and I felt the responsibility to do something about it.”

Hearing local businesses such as Brewery Vivant talk about their zero-waste programs at a sustainability conference at Aquinas a few months ago also motivated Madcap to start a program of its own, says Wieck.

After finishing their drinks or food, customers can place their trash in the bus bins, which are later sorted through by employees and separated into compost and recycle bins. Compostable materials such as paper products, to-go cups, and coffee grounds are used to make compost rich in nutrients. In a week, the coffee shop can fill an average of three 33-gallon compost bins which are collected from Organicycle, a business offering curbside composting. Compost is picked up by Well House’s Urban Farm and Fulton House Cooperative as well.

For recycling, the coffee shop reuses cardboard boxes from delivered items such as cups, merchandise and coffee. Milk jug caps, batteries and other miscellaneous items are recycled through Kent County’s recycle center and Treehuggers, an eco-friendly retail store.

“I would certainly like to see more ideas of reduce and reuse before recycling, but I certainly think recycling as opposed to throwing away is a much better option,” says Angela Topp, Treehuggers owner. “If we’re going to provide a product or a service or what have you, it's kind of our responsibility to make sure that we do it in a way that is good for not only the customer, but the environment and the community as a whole.”

Wieck says she learned the difference between various plastics and recyclables through Treehuggers.

“They’re always very helpful and teach us how to recycle. They don’t just recycle it for us,” says Wieck. “It’s a learning process but it’s fun.”

The program is not only a learning opportunity for Madcap employees, but for the community as well. Large events taking place downtown allow Madcap extra opportunities to share its Zero Waste values with a larger crowd than just the day-to-day customers. The recent Festival of the Arts allowed opportunities for conversations with familiar and new customers, while bringing challenges as well.

“It gets really hard. We get a lot of styrofoams, a lot of things that we’re not able to recycle,” says Wieck of items people bring from outside.

In a June 3 article by U.S. News and World Report, Madcap was noted for exemplifying for-benefit companies committed to socially responsible business practices. Madcap hopes to influence other coffee shops and businesses to go zero-waste as well, just as they were influenced by other local businesses, says Wieck.

“With the recycle and compost program, it’s a matter of showing people how easy it is,” says Wieck. “Just making small little changes to everyday routines that will hopefully overall benefit the world that we live in.”

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