Coffee bag features: are tin ties sustainable?

Jane Merchant
August 4, 2022
Coffee bag features: are tin ties sustainable?

Whether they are added to a form fill seal packaging machine, or come pre-cut and ready to be glued on, tin ties help ensure a product can be opened and resealed without spilling. 

Tin ties are one of the most affordable ways for the majority of roasters to seal their packaged coffee. Notably, the demand for tin ties is predicted to increase from $9.54 billion in 2022 to around $16.3 billion in just a decade’s time. 

That said, there are concerns about the sustainability of tin ties, as they are traditionally single-use and can be challenging to recycle. As they often ‌combine materials that can be difficult to separate, such as plastic, metal, and paper, they have the potential to contribute to plastic pollution. 

Therefore, roasters will need to determine whether the tin ties they are using are sustainable, while ensuring they are able to preserve the quality of packaged coffee. 

To find out more about the sustainability of tin ties and how roasters can adopt eco-friendly options, I spoke with the chief assistant at MTPak Coffee, Elyne Yang.

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A close up image of a tin tie on an unbleached kraft paper coffee bag in an article discussing whether tin ties are sustainable.

What are tin ties and how are they used?

Tin ties usually comprise a middle wire covered by plastic, polyethylene, or paper, and are commonly used to seal bags.

The plastic or paper coating helps protect the user from hurting themselves with the wire and makes it easier to tie and untie the twist. Tin ties can also come in a range of colours or feature a printed design. 

Some tin ties come as singles in pre-cut length, while others are manufactured in spools that can be individually cut to size. 

Roasters can apply tin ties to their packaging using a form fill seal machine or a heat sealer, as some come with adhesive on them. Once attached, they can be refastened multiple times without breaking. 

Tin ties can be twisted in any direction, making them easy and intuitive to use. They also continue to perform in extreme hot and cold temperatures without sustaining damage.

“Tin ties are popular with roasters who prefer the look and feel over that of a zipper,” says Elyne, who is also the supply chain manager at MTPak Coffee. “Tin ties can give a coffee bag a vintage look and feel that appeals to many customers.”

She adds that tin ties can be an eco-friendly option as the manufacturing process uses less material than other bag closure methods.

A unique benefit of using tin ties is that they can also serve as an indicator of how much coffee a consumer has left without them having to open the bag. This is because the bag can be rolled down and secured every time coffee is taken from it. 

An image of multilayer bleached kraft paper coffee bag with white tin tie in an article discussing how sustainable tin ties are.

Can tin ties be recycled?

Elyne explains the majority of tin ties are made from metal covered in paper and plastic, making them single-use. 

While there is less of a risk of tin ties becoming brittle like zippers, the glue that attaches them to the bag can age, and the tie will eventually fall off.

Additionally, tin ties are small, making it difficult to separate the materials. The metal wires used are usually galvanised or stainless steel, measuring 5.5 inches long and 5/16th of an inch wide. 

As a result, many urban recyclers tend to avoid them, as it would take millions of tin ties to make this a financially viable endeavour. 

In most cases, tin ties end up in landfills or destined for incineration. Waste that is incinerated often produces airborne pollution, which is linked to many forms of ill health, including a higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

On the other hand, landfill waste will eventually combine with rainwater and create contaminated fluids, which can gather in pools and create wastewater. 

More so, the physical waste left behind produces methane as it decomposes.

Customers are often advised to reuse tin ties at home, for sealing bags or storing items together. However, this may not always be a suitable solution, as tin ties can be a choking hazard to pets and small children

Furthermore, they may contain lead and copper, which can be harmful to human health when ingested. 

An image of a man holding up an unbleached kraft paper coffee bag with a tin tie in an article discussing how sustainable tin ties are.

How to make tin ties in coffee packaging more sustainable 

An effective way for roasters to ensure their tin ties have a minimum impact on the environment is to educate customers. 

The majority of consumers are unaware of how difficult it can be to recycle tin ties. 

Informing customers on how tin ties are made, how they can be disposed of, or how they can be reused safely can go a long way in diverting them from landfill. 

In many cases, consumers assume tin ties fall into a specific recycling category, such as tin, paper, or plastic. As a result, they can contaminate an entire stream of recyclable waste, rendering it useless. 

Roasters can use coffee packaging to convey how the tin ties can be separated and where they should go, especially if the primary packaging material is recyclable.

Repurposing tin ties 

Alternatively, roasters can request customers to return their used tin ties.

Customers can be incentivised to drop them off in person in exchange for a discount or voucher. 

Vienna Coffee Co in the US took a similar route, encouraging customers to separate their coffee bags and return all materials to the shop. The tin ties and coffee bags are placed in labelled bins and then sent to a local facility for reprocessing and repurposing. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dean’s Bean Organic Coffee Co collected their used tin ties and donated them to an organisation who used them to make face masks. 

For roasters and coffee shops, initiatives such as these can perform the double duty of positively building a brand: boosting sustainability credentials while actively involving customers‌.

An image of black and gold multilayer coffee bag next to a jar of roasted coffee beans in an article discussing how sustainable tin ties are.

Buying directly from packaging suppliers can allow roasters to streamline the process and result in both time and money savings. Additionally, roasters can ensure their coffee bags align with their sustainability claims and values. 

It is important to find a supplier that can address questions and concerns, and explain the packaging process from start to finish. This will help roasters better understand the procedure, which they can then communicate to customers.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer roasters and coffee shops a variety of ways to preserve the freshness of roasted coffee. 

We can help you determine which sealing option is best, whether it be tin ties, loop zippers, tear notches, or ziplocks. All of our resealable features can be seamlessly integrated into our recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee bags made from 100% recyclable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, LDPE, and lined with PLA

Furthermore, we offer a perfect solution for micro-roasters by providing low minimum order quantities (MOQ) on both recyclable and traditional options.

For more information on eco-friendly features for sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team

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