It’s been a busy day at Otto’s cafe and it’s time to take the bins out.
However, owner Jack and his team won’t need much muscle power to do that… even after the busiest of days there’s just one tissue and 40 recyclable foil milk caps to bin.
It’s an unprecedented eco-friendly efficiency at the Sevenoaks cafe and it’s become the focal point for Otto’s.
Read more: 15 of the biggest mistakes in Kent’s history – from the DartCharge to Manston Airport
The coffee shop has been open ever since 2016, but it was the COVID pandemic that saw a strong green shift in its identity.
Signing up to the KentLive newsletter means you’ll get the latest news direct to your inbox twice a day.
It couldn’t be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions. You can also enter your email address in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms.
You can also sign up to our website and comment on our stories by pressing here and signing in.
Jack tells KentLive: “Going through the first lockdown we noticed that we would go for walks in Knowle Park and what was already a problem was put under a magnifying glass.
“There were just coffee cups and lids everywhere and there were some Otto’s cups and we knew we were part of the problem.
“As individuals in the business, we are very passionate chefs and baristas and consider ourselves very lucky to do what we love, but we are environmentalists as well so we thought enough is enough, let’s do some research.”
The product of that research was a clever stunt that would go viral online and which the furthest corners of the world from Portugal to Australia.
Jack explained: “For the next three or four weeks we went through the bins local to our cafe, none of which are split recycling – we found out that our council don’t recycle anything, they incinerate it and use that statistic as a greenwashing one to say they processed the recycling which they actually don’t.
“We spent three weeks going through the bins, in that time we collected 15,000 cups and processed a load of other waste as well.
“We kept the cups and decided to put them on the floor to demonstrate that human convenience causes significant inconvenience to the environment.
“We wanted to inconvenience our customers by putting the cups that they used in between them and the till. We told them if they had a reusable cup they could use that door and if not they had to walk through the cups.”
Jack recalls that whilst a lot of people said no to the walk of shame or promised to come back once the cups had been cleaned up, the majority of customers got involved with the spirit and traipsed through the waste.
Being sustainable has always been part of Otto’s goal, even before the pandemic, having offered discounts to customers with reusable cups before and setting June 2020 as a date to be single-use – a goal that was pushed back by COVID.
Bouncing back into business after lockdown, the cafe decided to just take the plunge.
Jack admits: “We’re fully aware of the risk and not free of that. We are risking our business to prove our point, there’s been a 10% drop in sales but we didn’t feel like we had a choice.
“Our attitude is a planet before profit approach. The bags we use are 100 per cent recyclable, the labels we use are bio-degradable and everything across our business we approach with that question first.”
Otto’s reach is growing fast too, not only through viral campaigns on the internet but locally too – on a normal day you can see Kent locals from six to 60 years old queuing up outside, their own cup in hand.
For fans of the single-use cup stunt earlier this year, Jack also finishes by teasing there’s more tricks up the team’s sleeves.