Upcycling Warmth and Holiday Cheer

Reusing Abundant Coffee Bag Material to Create Warmth and Holiday Cheer

Since we live in the city that founded Starbucks, it’s only appropriate that RAI artisans have routinely been upcycling Starbucks’ burlap by the hundreds of pounds and turning them into a signature burlap market tote bags, small pouches, and wine totes

In 2021, Starbucks approached RAI’s product development team with a request to figure out how to repurpose post-consumer five- and one-pound coffee bags (aluminum foil, PET, linear low-density polyethylene). The bag material is waterproof and abundant, but it is typically a single-use package.

At the same time, King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks launched the Re+ plan with the mission of minimizing waste by keeping valuable materials in use and out of the landfill, thereby reducing climate impacts. RAI was awarded a Re+ Circular Economy Grant in 2022 and has been hard at work upcycling hundreds of pounds of materials that would otherwise have ended up in the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.

RAI will fulfill this grant by the spring of 2024 and is one of 14 organizations that King County has invested in, committing nearly $3 million in projects that reduce waste and keep valuable resources in the economy and out of the landfill. This is part of King County’s Re+ initiative to reinvent the region’s waste management system, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more equitable, sustainable local economy.

RAI staff worked to develop several unique and reusable products out of the shiny, somewhat pliable material and ended up with:

  1. Insulated bags: hundreds of lunch tote bags and freezer bags lined with the rollstock material.
  2. Waterproof mats for people experiencing homelessness.
  3. A coat that converts into sleeping bag and with a built-in pillow. This coat/sleeping bag is such an innovative design that a patent was filed for its invention!

In addition, the single use five- and one-pound bags were upcycled into thousands of ornaments and bows. Artisans each crafted hundreds of bows and various types of ornaments from home: butterfly ornaments, holiday tree ornaments, and origami fan ornament. 

RAI’s triple impact makes a true difference in people’s lives—by upcycling materials and keeping them out of the landfill, providing work for immigrant and refugee women, and providing warmth and comfort for people facing homelessness.

Colorful bows and ornaments made from Starbucks coffee bags

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