Sustainable Degassing Valves: Why Should Roasters Use Them?

Janice Kanniah
February 22, 2021
recyclable degassing valve

The degassing valve is the unsung hero of the coffee packaging world. Few consumers understand its inner workings, but most know it plays an important role in keeping their coffee fresh.

However, despite the obvious benefits of degassing valves, when it comes to disposing of empty coffee pouches, they often prove troublesome. Typically made from different materials to the coffee’s packaging, many consumers are left wondering if it’s sustainable, and if so, how.

This might not seem like a big problem, but it could prevent your sustainable packaging from being correctly dealt with once empty. This will waste the time and money you’ve invested in eco-friendly packaging, while contributing to our planet’s growing waste problem. In most cases, the ideal solution is a degassing valve that can be recycled along with the rest of the packaging. 

Read on to find out more about sustainable degassing valves and the available options for specialty roasters.

See also: What Is Plant-Based Coffee Packaging?

coffee freshness

What Is Degassing?

When coffee is roasted, it undergoes a number of thermally driven chemical reactions as it develops from a green bean into a product that can be ground, brewed, and consumed. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into smaller molecules, beans begin to brown, and water vapour escapes.

One of the most notable of these reactions is the buildup of volatile gases inside the beans, causing their volume to increase by up to 80%. While some of these gases are released during roasting, the rest are retained inside the porous structure of the roasted beans and gradually released in the days that follow. This process is known as degassing.

Of all the gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for the largest percentage, and, as such, is linked to various characteristics and properties of the coffee. According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, CO2 is an indicator for freshness, plays an important role in shelf life, affects the extraction process, is involved in crema formation, and may affect the sensory profile in the cup.

The rate at which CO2 is released depends on a number of factors, including roast profile and bean density. Generally, in the first 24 hours after roasting, the level of CO2 drops by around 40%, before releasing more slowly. However, this will accelerate upon grinding and extracion.

recyclable degassing valves

How Do Degassing Valves Keep Coffee Fresh?

The time between roasting and consuming coffee can be difficult for specialty roasters to predict. While one customer might purchase coffee soon after it’s been roasted and brew it the moment they arrive home, the next could keep it stored for weeks before consumption. 

Roasted coffee may also have to travel over great distances, spending long periods of time in transit. In some cases, this means it won’t appear on supermarket shelves until long after roasting.

In order to extend the shelf life of their coffee and preserve its freshness, specialty roasters need to ensure that their coffee is protected from exposure to oxygen, light, moisture, and heat. If not, it can affect compounds in the coffee, causing it to become stale and bland.

This means keeping the packaging tightly sealed using materials that prevent external factors from entering. However, as coffee continues to degas during this time, most roasters include degassing valves on the outside of their coffee bags.

A degassing valve is a one-way vent that allows CO2 to escape the sealed bag without allowing oxygen, or any other externalities, to enter. Without them, the released CO2 would have nowhere to go, which may result in the coffee bag becoming unstable and rolling off the shelf. After some time, it could even burst.

In addition to keeping out oxygen and letting carbon dioxide escape, degassing valves saves time for roasters by streamlining the packaging process. Freshly roasted coffee can be immediately packaged without worrying that its CO2 will cause issues. It also provides flexibility to customers who can store their coffee at home and consume it at their leisure. 

recyclable coffee packaging

The Problem With Plastic Degassing Valves

The degassing valve may be a relative newcomer to the coffee industry, yet when it was introduced by Italian manufacturer Goglio in the 1960s, it completely changed the way coffee businesses approached coffee packaging. For the first time, roasters could use flexible packaging without fear of it bursting or their coffee becoming oxidised.

Since then, degassing valves have evolved to meet the changing needs of the market. For example, packagers can now apply valves to any area of the packaging to prevent it from obscuring its branding. They can also be fastened to packaging at a rate of 25 to 45 units per minute, contributing to a fast and efficient manufacturing process.

As time has passed, flexible degassing valves have gradually replaced hard button valves. These valves use 90% less plastic, resulting in a lower price and reduced environmental impact. They are usually hidden under the laminate of the packaging to provide a slick aesthetic.

While these are arguably better for the planet, they’re still made of plastic. Even if the rest of the packaging is compostable or biodegradable, consumers must remove the valve before disposing of the rest of the packaging as indicated.

This poses a recycling issue as most consumers will assume packaging labelled as recyclable can be disposed of without tampering with it. Introducing additional steps to the disposal process can become an inconvenience to consumers.

At best, they’ll forget to remove it and compromise the process of repurposing the rest of the packaging’s material. At worst, the lack of disposal options could prompt them to choose a competitor with a simpler option.

degassing valve

The Benefits Of Recyclable Degassing Valves 

According to a recent survey by McKinsey & Company, close to half of surveyed US consumers cited environmental impact as extremely or very important for packaging. Therefore, it’s essential for specialty coffee roasters to do everything they can to ensure that their products are as environmentally friendly as possible.

A popular choice is the recyclable degassing valve. Produced using injection-moulded bioplastics made from renewable resources, such as crops, recyclable degassing valves have the same properties as plastics without the environmental impact.

They can help conserve fossil fuels, reduce your carbon footprint, and communicate your commitment to sustainability. Furthermore, they allows customers to correctly dispose of their coffee packaging with minimal confusion.

When added to recyclable or compostable packaging materials, such as kraft paper with polylactic acid (PLA) laminate, specialty roasters can offer customers a fully sustainable coffee pouch. As well as providing an attractive option for new customers, this can help boost brand loyalty among existing customers who might otherwise have switched their allegiance to more sustainable competitors.

If a recyclable degassing valve is added to a compostable coffee bag, it will need to be removed before disposal. If this is the case, specialty roasters should provide clear instructions on the bag to make it as easy as possible for consumers.

degassing valve

As customers become increasingly aware of the impact their buying habits are having on the environment, greater numbers are looking for companies offering genuinely sustainable products.

While it may be simple to switch to recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable packaging materials, finding equally sustainable degassing valves can be difficult. Historically, degassing valves have had to be removed from the packaging and disposed of separately, adding an extra, inconvenient step for consumers.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer fully recyclable, BPA-free degassing valves that can be recycled along with the rest of the coffee packaging. These valves usually consist of five pieces: a cap, an elastic disc, a viscous layer, a polyethylene plate, and a paper filter. Not only do they contribute to creating a user-friendly product for consumers, they also reduce the negative impact of coffee packaging on the environment.

For more information on our recyclable degassing valves for coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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