As we grow wiser, we learn more about what’s happening worldwide. Sustainability is on everyone’s minds, both in business and those armed with purchasing power.
This is also true for folks in the coffee industry, and this couldn’t happen at a more impactful time – countries globally are passing laws that demand responsibility for environmental impact.
Coffee is one of those areas where the world is paying attention because if the industry expects to last, sustainability must be at the forefront
Coffee roasters everywhere are aware of their impact. They are working diligently on creating programs that are sustainable but also are explicit in their mission to champion being green – without “greenwashing.”
Through sustainable practices, there’s a big push to minimize our impact by avoiding packaging materials that don’t biodegrade or can’t be recycled. Some of these ideas seem obvious, while others may not be so clear. So, let’s get started with the basics.
What Is Sustainable Packaging?
Coffee packaging is a part of coffee’s carbon imprint – while it’s only around 3%, it’s a part of a bigger overall problem: there’s the fact that it’s plastic, but also if it’s not adequately sourced and produced, but then if it’s poorly transported, and discarded, all these things add up and that’s not good for the environment.
The focus should be on reducing carbon footprint through renewable raw materials and repurposing materials.
Packaging is generally either rigid or flexible.
Rigid packaging includes:
- Fixed boxes
Rigid packaging offers support and protection; flexible packaging is sustainable. Fewer raw materials are used in production, and it has a lower carbon and water footprint. Most coffee bags from specialty roasters are made from flexible packaging.
Coffee beans are porous and absorb moisture fast. When storing coffee, it should be as dry as possible. If moisture sneaks into the packaging, the coffee will go rancid.
Quality coffee packaging should protect the beans for at least a year with an airtight seal that keeps out moisture and sunlight and is abrasion resistant. To do that, you’re going to need the right kind of packaging:
Multi Layered Coffee Packaging
Due to air getting inside a bag, there needs to be serious protection. That’s why multilayer structures are essential.
A single layer of material won’t provide the necessary strength. Coffee bags typically need a layer of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and aluminum foil inside a polyethylene (PE) bag. The adhesive between the two materials can be hard to separate and process. So this makes it hard to collect and recycle, meaning they could wind up in another landfill.
When choosing multilayer coffee packaging, it’s critical to ensure all components are biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable. This also doesn’t apply only to layers but also inks and labels. If not made of suitable materials, inks and labels can pollute the ground and water if left to the elements. Water-based printing inks and coatings with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) make the sustainability processes much more manageable.
Recyclable, Biodegradable & Compostable Coffee Pouches
The world of sustainable coffee pouches is growing. But there’s still work to do. 100% biodegradable or compostable packaging options aren’t available yet. About 60% of the material will break down, and the remaining 40%, unfortunately, still utilizes non-biodegradable layers, degassing valves, and sealing systems.
The whole concept is a work in progress; breaking some of these bags down takes the correct elements to properly break a bag down with certain microbes in the soil.
Recycling can be better for the environment than composting. The components of a coffee bag can become repurposed as trash bags, films for construction, agriculture, or furniture.
What should a coffee roaster do to stay sustainable?
It starts with you. Do you have the means to make this packaging first and foremost? If so, be clear on how to compost or recycle your coffee packaging. Be sure to use packaging that doesn’t require labels or uses inks that won’t pollute the ground or groundwater.
Champion ways for people to do more in their communities to lessen the carbon footprint and stay committed to moving the brand forward with every possible route of sustainability possible.
If you’re considering this type of sustainable packaging, let’s talk. We’ve dedicated the ePac brand to doing our part to get greener daily continually. We can show you how our bags work and can help your coffee roasting company do the same.