The Brew: Flexible Recycling for Co-Work Spaces

Making recycling easy, flexible and effective in a co-working environment

Business club group, The Brew, was struggling to find a recycling solution that would enable it to build a ‘green culture’ across its five spaces in East London. With a community of start-ups, SMEs and freelancers, it needed a system that was simple, easy and flexible, yet was unable to find a service to meet its needs. Thankfully First Mile came to the rescue. 

The Challenge 

When it opened the doors of its first business club in 2011, The Brew was committed to creating a sustainable, ‘green’ culture, making it easy for members to do their bit for the environment. But incorporating recycling into its co-working model initially proved harder than expected, with a limited selection of services that were inflexible to its needs.   

Firstly, waste had to be sorted before collection, which meant communicating what could and couldn’t be recycled was a headache. Many members weren’t sure what to put in which bin, so the team would spend time sorting through the waste themselves. Commercial Director, Justina Cruickshank, admits:

“Our recycling efforts, whilst laudable, were incomplete and inefficient. We’re sure that many recyclable items were missed.”

The second issue was organising how the recycling would be collected and disposed of. Despite trying various options, The Brew found them complicated to set up, with no flexibility over collection days, plus different policies and stipulations for different locations. As a dynamic business with highly variable amounts of waste, they found providers inefficient: “We felt it defeated the purpose of trying to be effective recyclers,” says Justina. 

The Brew Mural

Enter First Mile

Discovering First Mile in April 2015 was a revelation for The Brew, offering a simple and flexible recycling solution. Members can now recycle everything together, with no need to worry about putting waste in the wrong bin and no communication headache for staff, as only food waste needs to be disposed of separately. First Mile also operates a zero-to-landfill recycling model, which means that anything that can’t be recycled is used to produce energy-from-waste. 

Justina outlines the difference it has made at The Brew:

“It’s very easy to communicate and we saw a marked change in behaviour, with the percentage of recycling we produced immediately increasing. The sorting of rubbish is left to First Mile which means our impact is higher as nothing gets missed.” 

Scheduling collections is also a lot more flexible, with First Mile giving The Brew the freedom to schedule pick-ups whenever suits them. Bethany Guard, Head of Customer Experience at First Mile, explains why this is important: “Because The Brew offers really flexible terms to its members, the volumes of waste and recycling they produce can vary hugely from week to week. That means traditional waste set ups, which charge per visit, would not be cost effective in a quiet week, and unable to offer enough capacity on peak days. With constantly changing needs, The Brew needs a flexible and fast acting partner.”

The Brew has also found First Mile cost-effective and intuitive to work with, as it only charges for the recycling bags themselves, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Brew’s Community Manager just need to order the bags online, to be delivered the next day, and First Mile will collect on a pre-agreed schedule. They’re not tied into a contract to buy a minimum amount, and there is no minimum purchase or admin fees. This provides the flexibility for volumes and types of waste that The Brew needs and means no bags or collection days are wasted due to insufficient items. 

The impact so far

First Mile has transformed recycling at The Brew, with 14.1 tonnes of rubbish recycled in 2016, the equivalent average weight of eight British Rugby Union Teams! Doing so has also saved 20 tonnes of CO2 and generated enough energy to boil enough kettles for 176,000 cups of tea. First Mile says it recycles an average of 73% of everything collected across The Brew’s locations. 

“We love being able to communicate to our members the impact that they’ve made to our recycling efforts and the environment,” says Justina. “It’s also a great differentiator for us when meeting potential and new members – we can show that we’re doing our bit for the planet and making it easy for them to contribute as well.” 

The future

The Brew has big ambitions for its business and its recycling, with plans to work more with First Mile to influence member behaviour both at work and at home. There is also the opportunity to roll out zero-to-landfill waste services across all its locations, as well as food and coffee recycling. As Justina says:

“First Mile has enabled us to be better recyclers.”