Should staff be educated on sustainable coffee packaging?

Alexander Hoyes
December 29, 2022
Should staff be educated on sustainable coffee packaging?

At every stage of the coffee supply chain, there are opportunities to improve knowledge, from cupping protocols and eco-friendly practices to sustainable coffee packaging.

Education is essential, not only to producers, roasters, and consumers themselves but also to the members of staff working within roasteries and coffee shops. 

If a customer has questions about the coffee or the packaging materials, staff members should be able to answer quickly and accurately. Education has a key role in helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions. 

By understanding more about the production, roasting, and packaging process, consumers can support coffee brands that align with their personal values.

Educating people about sustainable coffee packaging can offer extensive benefits for the sector. When farmers, roasters, consumers, and staff understand the importance of their choices, the specialty coffee sector can flourish and continue to grow sustainably.

Read on to find out how roastery and coffee shop staff can be educated on sustainable coffee packaging.

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An image of kraft paper coffee bags in a coffee store in an article about whether staff should be educated on sustainable coffee packaging

How important is sustainable coffee packaging?

The overall environmental impact of coffee packaging is significant. 

A study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural Science revealed the carbon footprint across the entire coffee supply chain is considered “very high”.

The implications of their findings suggest sustainability practices and mitigations to help assuage the detrimental impact on the environment are a must.

Fortunately, a 2021 survey found 54% of consumers under the age of 44 consider sustainable packaging materials when choosing a product.

Notably, the survey revealed 83% of this age group said they were willing to spend more on a product if the packaging has sustainable components. 

The growing number of eco-conscious consumers has led more businesses within the coffee sector to shift to sustainable packaging, particularly in roasteries and cafes. 

That said, switching to more sustainable coffee packaging may come with increased costs, as the materials may be up to 25% more expensive than their less environmentally friendly counterparts.

Additionally, while the majority of people recognise the need to reduce their environmental impact, some consumers may rank sustainability as a low priority when considering multiple buying factors.

The factors that exceed sustainability are typically price, quality, and brand, to name a few. This, however, may be due to the lack of understanding of the severity of the environmental impact several products have on a global scale.

Thus, educating retail providers may help raise awareness for the consumer on the importance of sustainable products.

In a coffee shop, for instance, the barista is likely to be directly involved in the sale of coffee, and coffee bags, to the customer.

Therefore, a barista that is informed on sustainable coffee packaging can help educate the consumer on why eco-friendly materials are essential in the coffee realm.

An image of a RAVE Coffee LDPE multilayer coffee bag with a recyclable icon custom printed on the coffee bag in an article about whether staff should be educated on sustainable coffee packaging

Common misconceptions around sustainable coffee bags

Though some limitations exist, there are several forms of sustainability practices for coffee companies to consider.

Often, sustainability buzzwords such as “compostable”, “recyclable”, or “biodegradable” are used interchangeably. Furthermore, the definitions tend to remain unclear from business to consumer. 

However, each term is unique and should be identified clearly. 

Compostable materials are certified substances that can be broken down completely into non-toxic components. Under conducive conditions, these materials will not harm the environment.

Recyclable materials are substances that can be collected and processed into new products. This helps to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and returns material to be processed.

Biodegradable materials are capable of being broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi. Similar to compostable materials, under the correct conditions, biodegradable materials should not harm the environment.

The terms “compostable” and “biodegradable” are very similar – both are substances that can be degraded in the environment without causing environmental damage.

The key difference between the two is the term “biodegradable” can refer to any substance that breaks down, versus a material that is “fully compostable”, which indicates it is organic.

By definition, in order for a product to be biodegradable, at least 90% of the material must decompose within three months of being discarded.

For coffee shops, this is helpful information to convey to customers when they are ready to discard their empty bags of coffee.

Rather than just recycling the bag, the consumer can implement their own sustainability efforts at home. For example, utilising their own composter if the bag is biodegradable.

An image of a coffee roaster sorting kraft paper coffee bags in an article about whether staff should be educated on sustainable coffee packaging

Benefits of educating staff on sustainable coffee packaging

For a coffee company to effectively educate staff on the sustainability efforts they aim to achieve, it is important to illustrate why they are so important. 

Allowing staff to reflect and ask questions regarding sustainability will give them the chance to consider the issue as something major that they should help push forward. 

If an establishment uses eco-friendly coffee packaging, it is imperative to relay the sustainability practices to the consumer. 

That said, it is not enough to merely use the terms biodegradable or compostable on coffee packaging. 

There should also be a step-by-step process that informs customers on how their sustainable packaging can be discarded. 

To allow for transparency, it is beneficial for the staff at coffee shops and roasteries to be well-versed in the definitions of these sustainability terms.

Conveying the correct manner to the customer can be shown in multiple forms, both physically and depicted on the coffee bag itself.

An image of a barista filling a coffee hopper with roast coffee from a kraft paper coffee bag with a PLA-lining in an article about whether staff should be educated on sustainable coffee packaging

Indeed, by default, most eco-friendly packaging comes with an indicator of its sustainability practices. 

That said, roasters should take this one step further by providing information about the coffee bag’s compostability or recyclability on their website and offer incentives for customers who fulfil these requests.

At MTPak Coffee, we pride ourselves in the sustainable services we offer to our customers.

Our range of sustainable coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials. 

Our variety of coffee boxes is made using 100% recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

More so, both our sustainable coffee bags and coffee boxes can be fully customised to accurately reflect your brand, or inform customers of how to dispose of empty coffee packaging.

Additionally, we offer our clients a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time, thanks to our innovative digital printing technology.

We also offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

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

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