For decades, plastic has been the go-to material for packaging coffee. Affordable, strong, and versatile, it protects the beans within while preserving their freshness and quality.
Today, however, attitudes towards plastic have changed. Increasing awareness of its impact on the environment has encouraged roasters to seek out new and innovative ways of packaging their coffee. They see it as important not only in reducing waste, but also in the retention of customers.
A popular alternative to traditional plastic is low-density polyethylene (LDPE). It has similar characteristics, with the benefits of being recyclable and reusable. Read on to find out more about the advantages of switching to LDPE for coffee packaging.
See also: What Is Kraft Paper & Why Is It Popular With Coffee Roasters?
How Similar Is LDPE To Traditional Plastic?
LDPE is a thermoplastic characterised by its properties as a thin, lightweight, and flexible material that can withstand temperatures of up to 80°C.
Although it has a lower tensile strength than high-density polyethylene (HDPE), it is more resilient, making it a useful material for packaging items that require flexibility. It’s most commonly found in films used to package goods. However, it is also used in the manufacture of plastic bags, tubing, wash bottles, among other products.
What sets LDPE apart from traditional plastics is the ease and affordability with which it can be reused and recycled. Unlike polylactic acid (PLA) or kraft paper, LDPE takes roughly the same time to decompose as traditional plastics. Nevertheless, the absence of toxins when recycled makes it an eco-friendly alternative.
Why Should Roasters Consider Using It For Packaging?
In recent years, the specialty coffee sector has made significant strides towards reducing plastic usage, with much of the focus on customers and their use of plastic cups and straws. However, roasters are also under increasing pressure to reduce their impact on the environment.
Jo West works for The Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee roaster based in the UK. In a blog post on her website, she says that roasters must move towards more environmentally friendly methods of packaging and selling coffee, no matter how significant the output.
“Respect for the environment now tops the list of priorities for all coffee roasters, regardless of whether they’re a huge conglomerate or a small start-up,” she says.
It’s clear that coffee packaging has an important role to play in a move towards environmental sustainability. Yet it can be a daunting prospect to switch from the convenience of traditional plastics to a less conventional material. Some materials can prove to be more expensive, and might not protect the quality of the coffee as effectively.
LDPE offers a good balance for roasters looking to move away from traditional plastics without the need to completely rethink their business models. It has similar characteristics to traditional plastics, including a long shelf life, but it is fully recyclable and easy to reuse.
Specialty coffee roasters who switch to LDPE packaging recognise it as a good way of maintaining the quality of the coffee, while demonstrating a tangible move towards more sustainable practices.
Making LDPE Packaging Work
Before committing to LDPE packaging, roasters should ensure that consumers are aware of where they can recycle their empty coffee bags.
For example, Common Coffee Roasters located in Fife, Scotland, started by using omni-degradable packaging before making the move to LDPE bags. Their customers can recycle the empty bags by dropping them off in designated bins at supermarkets.
UK-based Modern Standards Coffee Roasters also use LDPE in their packaging. They’ve devised an innovative collection scheme by encouraging their consumers to collect their used bags and return them periodically for a discount on their next order.
Once they have collected enough bags, they are shipped to a special recycling facility where the bags are extruded, made into pellets, and moulded into various recycled plastic products.
Plastic has developed a bad reputation over the last few decades – but not all plastic is created equal. LDPE offers coffee roasters the reliability of the traditional plastics with a lower environmental impact.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of materials for specialty coffee packaging, and can help you decide on the perfect option for your business. Our experts can help you select the right materials for your packaging, as well as a range of options for branding, degassing in transit, and sealing.
To find out more about LDPE packaging for your coffee business, contact our team.
Photo credits: Laura Wallace, MTPak Coffee
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