By Vivienne Pearson
While researching the story ‘Localising the war on coffee cup waste’ (28 June), The Echo heard about an innovation in the coffee industry that reduces waste a step before your coffee gets into a cup.
The waste in question is plastic milk bottles. A busy cafe can easily go through more than 100 litres of milk a day. Packaged in 2-litre bottles, that’s a lot of plastic.
Enter The Juggler. So named because it dispenses milk into jugs, but apt also given the constant juggle of coffee, milk and orders that baristas perform every day.
Top Shop in Byron Bay is one of only three cafes in the region to have installed The Juggler. ‘It looks a bit like a chest freezer with shelves,’ says co-owner, Charlie Gordon. The shelves have 10-litre milk ‘bladders’ loaded into them and the system is programmed to dispense set quantities of milk flow from there via a sleek tap into the barista’s milk jugs.
Reducing waste was one of Top Shop’s motivations to install The Juggler but it wasn’t the only one; workflow efficiency and tidiness in small spaces are other benefits. ‘We’re no longer knee deep in empty milk bottles during service,’ says Charlie. ‘Before, baristas had to drop everything to run to the coolroom to get more milk and the kitchen hands spent valuable time clearing them to the bins.’
Charlie and his co-owner brother Andy, both early adopters of new technology, were also inspired by the design element. ‘I just love the idea,’ says Charlie of the system, which was designed by an industrial designer and coffee-lover, Ross Nicholls.
‘I was actively looking for a better solution than milk bottles,’ Ross says. ‘Every product comes in a larger-scale format for commercial use, except for milk.’ Ross had multiple design challenges to contend with, not the least being food hygiene. ‘Previous attempts by others involved modifying beer systems but they didn’t work, mainly for food safety reasons,’ he says. The Juggler enables milk to move from the sealed bladder all the way to the jug without being touched, even automatically piercing the lid.
The milk bladders are also made of plastic but use around 80 per cent less than the equivalent number of milk in bottles. It is worth noting that, even though milk bottles can be recycled, they still need to be created in the first place, are bulky to transport, and then have energy applied during the recycling process.
Another down-the-line environmental benefit is reduced milk wastage. Even experienced baristas will inevitably waste some milk by overfilling jugs and, while we’ve been schooled to not cry over spilt milk, that wasted milk has been created by cows that add considerable amounts of CO2 and methane to our world. ‘I estimate that we’re saving 10 per cent of milk since using The Juggler,’ says Charlie from Top Shop.
Despite this, Ross’s company, called Six Simple Machines, does not emphasise the environmental benefits of The Juggler. This is for a quietly radical reason. ‘Ensuring that a newly developed product has as small an impact on the environment as possible is a responsibility, not a marketing ploy,’ says Ross.
Ross also explains that cafes need to consider their milk supply before purchasing The Juggler. ‘The use of The Juggler is constrained by the availability of milk,’ he says. For Charlie at Top Shop, liaising with milk companies was a major part of his decision to install The Juggler. ‘We had fruitful discussions with two companies and, in the end, went with Norco, distributed by Byron Milk Supplies,’ Charlie says.
There are two other cafes in the area with The Juggler. Of its use at Three Blue Ducks (at The Farm) co-owner Chris Sorrell says: ‘The Juggler is an absolute game changer,’ adding another advantage of its use: ‘It saves your back as you’re not constantly bending into the fridge.’
Freya Gibbs, manager of Sparrow, Byron Bay, says environmental reasons are key: ‘The plastic waste from hundreds of litres of milk each week is enormous, so moving to a milk-bladder system has significantly cut down on the amount of plastic waste we create!’
Charlie has quantified the impact from Top Shop. ‘We have eliminated more than 20,000 plastic milk bottles from our waste stream in the past 12 months,’ he says. That’s a lot of plastic.
The Juggler: www.sixsimplemachines.com.au
Top Shop: Corner Carlyle and Massinger Sts, Byron Bay. Facebook: topshopbyronbay
Sparrow Coffee: 1 Byron St, Byron Bay (and 32 Byron St, Bangalow). Facebook: @sparrowcoffeeco
Three Blue Ducks at The Farm: Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay. Facebook @threeblueducksbyronbay
A juggling barista (Sean) at Top Shop
The Juggler milk bladder