What is BPI-certified coffee packaging?

Aidan Gant
February 9, 2023
An image of BPI-certified coffee packaging made from compostable kraft paper, kraft paper coffee bags, compostable coffee bags in an article on BPI-certified coffee packaging

The number of eco-conscious consumers continues to grow and sustainable brands are now more important than ever.

More consumers say sustainable packaging tops their list of priorities. Including sustainability certifications on your coffee packaging is an accredited, accessible, and effective way to show your business and its practices are truly ethical.

For many coffee businesses, packaging certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a desirable accolade. Notably, BPI-certified coffee packaging is one of the most robustly tested and instantly recognisable accreditations in commercial compostability.

Compostable-certified coffee bags communicate implicitly to your customer base that your business prioritises environmental concerns.

That said, in a competitive realm, what sets BPI certification apart from other eco-credentials, and what exactly does the accreditation mean for your business?

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What is a BPI certification?

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is the leading North American authority on compostable packaging materials.

It provides a BPI certification scheme as a third-party verifier for businesses wanting to promote environmental credentials on product packaging.

In addition to providing certification, the BPI supports progress and innovation in compostability in several ways and is a proud advocate for compostable packaging.

The organisation conducts a variety of campaigns for furthering the implementation and acceptance of compostables with a firm eye on the full life cycle of the products.

Other issues they aim to catalyse change are a more robust collection infrastructure, ensuring municipal authorities take empty packaging to the correct processing facilities, and the stringent separation of contaminants.

Currently, the sortation technologies available to composters trail far behind those at hand for recycling processors. This leads to many compostable materials ending up in a landfill.

For the BPI, an important factor in reducing contamination is the clear and easily recognisable labelling of compostable goods.

The organisation is also petitioning the US National Organic Program and the National Organic Standards Board to allow for the inclusion of compost from facilities receiving compostable packaging in materials marketed as organic.

The current exclusion sets a major barrier for composters and leads to many refusing to accept compostable packaging.

The BPI is a non-profit, member-driven and operated organisation. Therefore, it holds a strong focus on its advocacy and the service it provides in an accreditation capacity rather than the financial bottom line.

Currently, the BPI only offers a commercial compostability certification. That said, plans are in progress to allow for the certification of home compostable packaging as well.

The difference here is commercial compostability relies on the presence of industrial conditions for the breakdown of packaging. In essence, materials won’t compost if simply thrown in with compostable waste at home.

An image of a BPI-certified takeaway coffee cup made from compostable materials in an article on BPI-certified coffee packaging

How can I get my coffee packaging BPI-certified?

For compostable certified coffee bags to carry the BPI mark, they must adhere to the standards laid out by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

This society governs any products labelled as compostable in North America. Their definition of a compostable plastic is one that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting.

Furthermore, it must yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials. Last, it must leave no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.

If your packaging meets these criteria, it could be eligible for BPI commercial composting certification.

That said, the route to initial certification is not a simple matter – despite the accessibility, guidance, and support provided on the BPI website.

Prior to applying for certification, the first step would be to ensure your product is compatible with the ethos of BPI:

  • It must not require disassembly by the end-user
  • It must not be a redesign of a product presently deemed more suited to recycling, such as plastic water bottles, for example
  • It must be associated with desirable natural and organic wastes

Then, applicants must submit non-disclosure agreements, extensive product information, and applications. Additionally, they will be required to submit a declaration of any PFAs known to be present in the product.

PFAs refer to harmful carbon-fluorine bonded chemicals that are often present in a lot of food packaging.

Once the paperwork is submitted, a $1500 fee must be paid. Then, a test scheme is required dependent on the assessment of BPI’s technical reviewer.

Among any other requirements identified in the technical review, BPI will insist on testing for biodegradation and disintegration at a minimum.

Typically, this testing takes around six months to complete and must be undertaken at a BPI-approved laboratory. Products will also be tested for ecotoxicity and the impact of their constituent parts on compost quality.

This stringent testing is fundamental to the quality assurance provided by the organisation and is one of the reasons it is an industry-leading accreditor.

Once test samples have been verified and received by BPI, a further technical review is undertaken to ensure the product meets American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards in light of any findings during the testing process.

Following the final review of licensing and membership, a certificate will be issued to eligible products.

An image of a coffee shop employee emptying roast coffee from a BPI-certified coffee bag into a hopper in an article on BPI-certified coffee packaging

How does a BPI certification benefit roasters & coffee shops?

For an ever-growing cohort of consumers, environmental concerns are at the forefront of their thinking when making purchase decisions.

Eco-consciousness has proven to be instrumental to purchase intent, with nearly half of all consumers declaring it as a primary purchase motivator.

It is also a factor in overall spending, with 66% of all customers and 73% of millennials prepared to pay more for eco-friendly products.

More so, it can influence public brand perception, with 92% of consumers being more trusting of environmentally concerned brands.

Perhaps more than any other single issue, concern for the environment has been found to influence consumer purchasing increasingly as the effects of climate change become clear.

BPI-certified coffee packaging is one way to demonstrate to your public that your business cares about the planet.

In addition to its own intrinsic value, BPI certification can be beneficial to eligibility for other independent environmental and social accreditations.

B Corp certification, for example, traces a company’s performance across a range of social and environmental metrics.

Using BPI compostable certified coffee bags would be an identifiable and objective demonstration of compliance with regard to sustainable packaging and could be helpful in your impact assessment.

In addition to offering our clients sustainable coffee packaging options, MTPak Coffee is able to assist with any coffee packaging certifications you may need.

Our range of sustainable packaging solutions aligns with BPI commercial composting and other environmentally friendly certifications.

We offer a selection of completely recyclable coffee packaging alternatives produced from renewable resources like kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an eco-friendly PLA lining, all of which reduce waste and support a circular economy.

We offer sustainable coffee packaging in a variety of shapes, including shaped pouches, stand up bags, flat bottom pouches, quad seal bags, side gusset pouches, and drip coffee bags.

Furthermore, our range of corrugated kraft paper coffee mailer boxes is made from 100% recycled cardboard and is available in a wide range of size options.

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

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Aidan Gant
Aidan Gant

Aidan spent his early career working in cafes alongside coffee roasters and in other hospitality positions. He owned a vegan tapas restaurant, specialty coffee bar, and live jazz venue, which he operated with his partner before closing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, he has made his living writing about coffee and the environment, and is currently a researcher and doctoral student in Creative Writing.

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