How far can you ship coffee in compostable bags?

Janice Kanniah
August 12, 2022
How far can you ship coffee in compostable bags?

Between 2020 and 2022, consumers spent $1.7 trillion shopping online – a 61% increase compared to the two previous years. 

While this is largely credited to the social restrictions that came with the Covid-19 pandemic, it also shows more consumers prefer the convenience of online shopping.

That said, increased online sales require more products to be delivered, which increases carbon emissions. Notably, Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, reported an 18% increase in carbon emissions in 2021 alone.

Those selling products online may need to offset the increased carbon emissions that accompany home delivery. For coffee shops and roasters, this may mean investing in more carbon friendly packaging. 

Compostable packaging is the most effective option. However, when selling a sensitive product such as coffee, it is natural to be concerned over its durability during long-haul transit. 

Read on to find out how far roasters can ship coffee in a compostable bag.

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An image of shipping containers waiting to transit coffee in an article about how far you can ship coffee in compostable bags

Why should roasters ship coffee? 

Experts predict that the UK is set to enter a recession before the end of 2022.

Despite this, and the rising cost of living, British consumers plan to continue their online shopping. This is why a strong focus on online sales will be essential for roasters and coffee shops.

Online shopping appeals to many as it allows consumers to compare prices, and may be cheaper than the commute to a local store. 

Additionally, customers can avoid queues, place orders for items that are currently out of stock, and peruse through more choices. 

More so, online shopping provides people with an accessible and relatively affordable thrill. Notably, studies suggest making online purchases may make a person feel instantly happier and positively affect their mood.

However, this instant gratification may not last with unaffordable and major purchases. This suggests it is a suitable option for selling cost-effective luxuries such as specialty coffee.

Recent research shows when purchasing products online, consumers have increased their delivery expectations. The number of consumers who want same-day or next-day delivery has increased by 77%.

More importantly, the percentage of shoppers who are willing to wait longer for online purchases to be delivered in more sustainable ways has decreased. 

Therefore, roasters selling coffee online will need to balance their products’ sustainability credentials with the convenience of quick delivery.

An image of a barista pouring roast coffee out of a compostable bag into a coffee hopper in an article on how far you can ship coffee in compostable bags

Can you ship coffee in compostable bags?

Some customers may be willing to compromise on eco-friendly deliveries for online purchases.

That said, they are less likely to do so on coffee packaging. Data shows customers still prefer to buy from businesses that offer sustainable packaging options, such as compostable bags. At least 47% of respondents are willing to pay more for eco-friendly options.

In light of this, it is natural to question how long compostable packaging can last in transit.

While plastic has fallen out of favour because of its negative environmental impact, few can dispute its durability. It is highly effective at protecting products from the elements over extended periods of time.

For some roasters, it is unlikely their compostable packaging will spend hours or even days in transit. 

For medium to large roasters with customers in different countries or regions, it may be a different story. 

This means a roaster’s primary concern should be the conditions in which their compostable coffee packaging can be shipped. 

In temperatures between 10°C and 40°C (50°F and 104°F), packaging made from polylactic acid (PLA) can last up to 18 years. However, this depends on how it is stored and treated.

PLA is made from the fermentation of carbohydrates from renewable resources such as maize, cornstarch, and sugarcane. The fermentation produces resin filaments that have similar characteristics to petroleum-based plastic. 

A humid and moist environment, or placing PLA in direct sunlight, can accelerate its degradation, or lead to it becoming brittle, bloated, or warped.

Image of a coffee roaster packaging coffee in compostable bags in an article on how far you can ship coffee in compostable bags

Tips for packaging coffee in compostable bags

To ensure a product arrives in perfect shape, roasters must keep a few factors in mind when packaging coffee in compostable bags. 

Refrigerated transportation and storage 

Climate change has seen the average global temperature increase, as is clear by the heatwaves recently experienced in the UK.

Delivery drivers have reported temperatures up to 49°C (121°F) inside their trucks without air conditioning.

Roasters must ensure their packaged coffee is stored and transported under temperature-controlled conditions to prevent the compostable bag from being damaged. 

Offer letterbox sizes

Selling coffee in letterbox-compatible packaging is highly convenient as it allows orders to be delivered directly into consumers’ homes.

Offering packaging of this size can prevent it from being damaged when pushed through a consumer’s letterbox and ensure it will not be left outside and exposed to the elements. 

Additionally, it can help prevent orders from being missed – which accounts for up to $1.94 million in lost sales. Selling coffee in this size can protect the compostable packaging and, by extension, the coffee.

More secure packaging

Packaging additions can be placed in compostable bags to help preserve and protect roasted coffee even further. 

Items such as secured zippers and degassing valves will help retain the coffee’s aroma and freshness for as long as it takes for the consumer to drink it. 

An image of a compostable coffee bag in an article on how far you can ship coffee in compostable bags

Compostable coffee bags have advanced in leaps and bounds since they were first pioneered as an eco-friendly packaging alternative.

For roasters who want to make the switch, it is essential to choose a quality packaging supplier that understands the importance of creating quality, attractive packaging to sell specialty coffee.

MTPak Coffee can assist you with everything from designing your coffee packaging and branding to packaging it appropriately for online sales. 

We offer a range of compostable coffee bags that can be fitted with a PLA interior. When added to kraft paper, it produces a fully compostable option for customers.

Our range of packaging also includes recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable options such as rice paper, all of which are made from renewable materials.

Furthermore, we can use digital printing to customise coffee bags to convey separation and recycling instructions on coffee bags. With a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time, we are able to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material.

We also offer fully recyclable, BPA-free degassing valves that can be recycled along with the rest of the coffee packaging. In addition to creating a user-friendly product for consumers, these valves reduce the negative impact of coffee packaging on the environment.

For more information on compostable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Janice Kanniah
Janice Kanniah

Janice is freelance writer based in South Africa and has written for MTPak Coffee since 2020. Her interests are in writing about sustainability, the circular economy, and the future of the environment.

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