Day: June 25, 2020

Cardiff cafes unite to support #ContactlessCoffee


A group of independent coffee shops and restaurants in Cardiff has teamed up to promote #ContactlessCoffee, and encourage the safe and hygienic use of reusable coffee cups as lockdown restrictions lift.

Pettigrew Bakery & Tearooms, Bloc Coffee, Brodies Coffee, Dusty Knuckle, and The Little Man Garage have all pledged to accept reusable cups again as they reopen, and to offer discounts and special offers to the customers who use them.

The campaign is based on an initiative from City to Sea, the award-winning, Bristol-based organisation turning the tide on single-use plastic. They recently launched the #ContactlessCoffee campaign, which began as a pilot in Bristol, with a short video for cafes highlighting the latest best practice for accepting reusable cups safely.

Upon seeing the video on social media, a group of local Cardiff businesses got talking over Twitter and agreed it was time to bring the movement to the Welsh capital.

Jo Morley, Head of Campaigns at City to Sea said: “Plastic pollution doesn’t stop for a pandemic. As we start to come out of lockdown, it’s been brilliant to see cafes and bars open their doors once more, but restrictions have led to an inevitable increase in single-use packaging. We want to get reusables back on the menu, and we’re working with businesses to make sure they’ve got the support and guidance they need to do this safely.”

She added: “I’m thrilled to see Cardiff businesses take up the baton in Wales, helping the public choose to reuse and reduce the amount of packaging that may end up littering our streets, parks and beaches.”

David Le Masurier, co-owner of Pettigrew Tearooms and Bakery, said: “Brilliant Coffee is vital to the success of our business and in lockdown ‘grabbing a coffee with your daily bread’ was a little taste of normality for many. We saw Covid-19 instantly halt all the progress in change of behaviour towards reusable cups, so it’s great to be part of the rallying call to keep reusables coming in Cardiff.”

Alex Parker, owner of Bloc Coffee in Victoria Park, said: “The increased use of disposable coffee cups was something that concerned us, but after watching the video guide from City to Sea we could see a really simple way to reintroduce reusable cups. We’ll be encouraging our customers to bring their own wherever we can.”

Rob Cooper, founder of The Little Man Garage in Riverside, said: “We’re offering £1 off a cake or pastry for customers who bring their own cups – we’re looking forward to seeing this become the norm again.”

Phill Lewis, co-founder of Dusty Knuckle Pizza said: “Though we aren’t able to welcome people back to our sites just yet, we’re delighted to be supporting #ContactlessCoffee to raise awareness about the safety of reusables. We’ll be accepting them as we look to open our shipping container in Canton, and later, our new site at the Goodshed in Barry.”

Ian Brodie, co-founder of Brodies Coffee, said: “Takeaway Coffee has always been at the heart of what we do and the ability to deliver great coffee both sustainably and safely in these trying times means the world. Contactless Coffee is a huge hit with our customers both regular and new – we haven’t found a drink yet that we can’t do contactless, and if you’re lucky you might even get some latte art!”

Jane Cook, who writes local sustainable food blog HungryCityHippy, said: “It has been distressing to see the rise in single use during the pandemic, but City to Sea’s video clearly illustrates that accepting reusables is both easy and safe. I am really excited to be able to enjoy takeaway coffee from my local independents in a sustainable way again.”

Other businesses across Cardiff who have indicated on social media that they are accepting reusables post-lockdown include Mec Coffee in Castle Arcade, and Wild Thing vegan café in Grangetown.

The campaign is also being supported by Cardiff’s first zero waste shop, Ripple Living, based in Roath.

Sophie Rae, founder of Ripple Living, said: “With the easing of lockdown, many of our community are eager to return to support the fantastic independent coffee shops around the city. Being able to use a reusable coffee cup in a contactless transaction is a good, safe way to uphold the city’s green credentials and help business to thrive in a post COVID19 climate.”

Any business in Wales can join the initiative by checking out City to Sea’s online resources, accepting reusables and by using the #ContactlessCoffee hashtag.

Members of the public are also encouraged to get behind the campaign by snapping a picture of their reusable cups in action, tagging @citytosea_, and sharing with the hashtag #ContactlessCoffee.

City to Sea’s big ambition is to see businesses of all shapes, sizes and locations pledge to re-introduce reusables in time for Plastic Free July.

The mass of miss information

Alarmed by the misinformation around reported increased hygiene benefits of single-use plastics in response to Coronavirus, City to Sea is leading the charge to ensure consumers can still safely take reusables to their favourite cafes and take-aways as they reopen.

Jo Morley, Head of Campaigns at City to Sea added: “Despite what the plastic industry wants us to believe, single-use plastic is no safer. Coronavirus doesn’t care which we use, but when it comes to the planet, there is a big difference between single-use and reusable.”

Reusables during coronavirus

Jo continued: “Safety is quite rightly the number one priority for all of us right now, and it’s understandable that cafes may be considering only offering single-use coffee cups when they re-open. However, no one material is guaranteed to stop the virus. That’s why the World Health Organization and other health authorities continue to emphasise that washing our hands and sanitizing surfaces are still the best things we can be doing.”

2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK – enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times, irreversibly damaging our environment and polluting our oceans.

Government guidance advises “the individual business to decide whether they allow the use of reusable cups or containers during this period”, so City to Sea want to support businesses in making the right decision by providing them with relevant guidance and support.

Over 115 health experts from eighteen countries signed a statement this week assuring retailers and consumers that reusables are safe during COVID-19, pushing back on claims made by the plastic industry. The health experts emphasize that disposable products are not inherently safer than reusables and that reusable systems can be utilized safely during the pandemic by employing basic hygiene.

Supporting businesses to return to normal

Reusables CAN be used safely and accepting them doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact it can be super simple!

1. Customers place their clean reusable cup (lid off) on a designated tray and steps back two metres.

2. The barista takes the tray with the customer’s cup over to the coffee machine, extracts the coffee into a normal crockery cup or espresso cup, and steams the milk, as required.

3. Without touching the customer’s reusable cup, the barista pours the coffee and milk into the customer’s cup (no latte art!), takes the tray back to the till and steps back two metres.

4. Customers enjoy coffee in their favourite reusable coffee cup and reduces the prevalence of single-use cups – high five!

City to Sea created this video to show how the process works in practice:



Low Carbon Engineering – A Look Into The Future

As a teacher or trainer, one hopes to inspire students but it is often the case when working in adult education, that the teacher is inspired as much (if not more) by the students as they are by you.

Such was the case when I delivered Carbon Literacy training to a group of post-graduate researchers in Cardiff University’s School of Engineering.

The students were either holders of a doctorate or on their way to receiving one and several of them were lecturers. So, I was a little daunted by the challenge of designing a training programme for them that would respect their level of knowledge and intellectual ability. The more a group of adults know however, the less the teacher or trainer needs to do in terms of knowledge transfer. The students bring the knowledge, and the trainer has to facilitate the sharing of that knowledge.

So I set the group a task of developing a mini lecture on the question, “Can we engineer our way out of the climate crisis?” Colleagues within the group had a wide degree of specialist knowledge covering topics such as; electricity grids, low carbon gas, low emission vehicles, psychology, waste management, and carbon reduction management. They worked in four teams to design an answer to the question and present their response.

Two of the teams addressed the issue at a high level, identifying the need for social, economic and cultural changes while the other two looked at specific engineering solutions. Here is a summary of what I learned from them.

Firstly, let us start with specific engineering solutions.

There are a range of geo-engineering options available – (See image above courtesy of Lahiru Jayasuriya and Riccardo Maddalena). These include ocean fertilisation to boost plankton growth, ground level reflectors to replace albedo lost when ice melts, cloud seeding and at the extreme end – orbiting reflectors to send solar thermal radiation back into space before it reaches Earth. These are known as “direct interventions.”

“Indirect interventions” include carbon capture-storage, smart grids and renewable energy sources coupled with hydrogen as an energy vector and storage medium.

An innovation that may prove to be very important is to create ammonia (NH3) by electrolysing water using power generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar. Ammonia is a colourless gas which can be chilled and compressed into a liquid. It is used as a fertiliser but is also a waste product in many industrial processes. Ammonia can act as a carrier of hydrogen or be used directly as a fuel but in the latter case, it produces high levels of nitrous oxides which are greenhouse gasses. Engineers are researching ways to decouple ammonia use from such emissions. Existing gas turbines would also need to be converted in order to use ammonia as a fuel.

Another exciting area of research is “smart local energy systems”. In these, energy is produced and supplied from a variety of disaggregated point sources rather than from a few large generators such as nuclear, coal or gas power stations. The gas and electricity supply grids work together, mediated by SMART technology. In this scenario, small local producers of energy can trade with peers, waste heat is no longer wasted, and things that use energy can moderate their demand in line with price and supply fluctuations. Consumers of energy are no longer passive recipients but become an important element by, for example, choosing when and how they require and use energy. A smart grid would be a major cultural shift but it is already being widely discussed and elements of it piloted.

Carbon capture and storage could reduce current emissions by 12% by stripping the carbon dioxide from industrial exhausts and storing it under ground. Coal, a high carbon substance, adsorbs carbon dioxide molecules onto its surface. The coal still sitting in the seams of the south Wales coalfield is particularly reactive in this respect – CO2 sticks readily to Welsh coal! This means that south Wales could be an important area for carbon storage. The alternative approach is to pump the gas into the voids left by oil and natural gas extraction but storage in coal seams is more stable.

These are just some examples of engineering solutions to the climate crisis but are they enough on their own?

The answer is a clear no.

To begin with, there are and will be a variety of interests that resist changes no matter how effective the engineering solutions can be. Engineers today must engage not only with clients but with politicians and the general public. They have to be able to advocate their science and particular technical solutions in a political and cultural context in order to build alliances that will overcome vested interests and irrational resistance but at the same time, the engineering solution itself will have to respect cultural and social concerns and be flexible enough to deal with these. Engineers, like other scientists, have to embrace interdisciplinary working practices. The education of engineers has to anticipate this by encouraging independent thinking and integrated design. The problem is that much of engineering research is funded by industry to achieve a very specific outcome strongly tied to economic efficiency and functionality.

The group agreed that the days when engineering could simply bolt something on are over. End of pipe solutions are no longer sufficient for the degree of challenge we face. We need to change the amount and the way we consume resources and engineers, like designers, have to be part of the process right from the beginning. I have become aware myself of the shift in thinking that has occurred in civil engineering over the last thirty years, proving that change can happen.

If the young men and women I met through this Carbon Literacy course are typical of their profession then I am heartened that we can change our world for the better. They can clearly explain their research interests with passion but also articulate the relevance of their research in a social, cultural and economic context. Much of their research takes place within the FLEXIS programme – a £24 million research initiative that is directed to developing energy systems, building on the research success of Welsh universities, to provide solutions of global relevance.

If you would like to know more about specific technologies mentioned above or engage with the FLEXIS programme then please contact Karolina Rucinska FLEXIS Project Development officer or visit the FLEXIS website. 

If you would like to read what FLEXIS thought about the Carbon Literacy training you can do so here.

Further information on specific technologies can be requested via Karolina as follows;

Ammonia as a fuel – Syed Mashruk, Gas Turbine Research Centre

Smart grids – Dr. Muditha Abeysekera, Lecturer in multi-vector energy systems

Carbon Capture and storage in South Wales Coalfield – Dr Renato Zagorscak, Geoenvironmental Research Centre

This workshop was sponsored by the Early Career Researchers Fund from the School of Engineering, Cardiff University. Find more information about research at Cardiff School of Engineering.

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