Are coffee bags made from roll stock compostable?

JP Blignaut
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August 25, 2023

Eco-conscious consumer behaviour has led many roasters and cafes to find innovative ways to package and sell their coffee. For many, flexible packaging, such as custom roll stock, offers many advantages for coffee bags.

Roll stock is fully customisable, easy to transport and store, and ‌inexpensive to manufacture and purchase. Additionally, coffee packaging made from roll stock can be made using compostable materials to offer consumers a sustainable product. 

Notably, according to recent research, the global flexible packaging market is projected to reach $102.8 billion by 2031. The innovative design behind flexible packaging, as well as its compatibility with high-quality graphic treatments, are driving factors behind this increased demand.

Investing in sustainable packaging materials, such as sustainable roll stock or compostable coffee bags, can help roasters minimise their carbon footprint. Beyond this, it can help them appeal to a growing number of consumers. 

To understand the full benefits of investing in compostable packaging, I spoke to Wilmer Carcamo, the director of Caribe Coffee Co.

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What is printed roll stock?

As a form of flexible packaging, customised roll stock has been used for some time. That said, it has only been in recent years that coffee roasters realised the potential of printed roll stock for their packaging needs.  

Also known as film rolls, printed roll stock is essentially a printed and laminated film that can be transformed into coffee bags, pillow pouches, singe-serve sachets, and more. Typically, roll stock is produced through a process called extrusion. During this process, plastic pellets or granules are melted down before being forced through a die to create a continuous sheet. 

After the sheet has cooled, it is cut to size and wound into rolls for storage and transportation. 

To create coffee packaging, roll stock is fed into a vertical or horizontal form fill seal (FFS) machine where it is filled and sealed to form individual bags. The process is fast and efficient, allowing for several bags of coffee to be produced quickly.

Furthermore, coffee packaging made from roll stock can be customised with various features to meet the specific needs of the roaster. These include tear notches, resealable zippers, and degassing valves.

For roasters, printed roll stock can be an affordable and effective way to ensure their coffee bags are visually appealing to customers. More so, as it is sealed, roll stock can help provide customers with peace of mind that their product has not been tampered with. 

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Are coffee bags made from roll stock compostable?

Coffee packaging currently accounts for around 3% of the coffee supply chain’s total carbon footprint. The volume of discarded coffee pouches has incited many to seek sustainable alternatives to help drive environmental improvement along the entire supply chain.

As roll stock is lightweight and uses less material than rigid packaging, it is often considered a sustainable form of packaging. However, it is important to note that the traditional manufacturing process for roll stock can have a significant environmental impact. It involves the use of plastic materials, and due to the melting and extrusion processes, it can be energy intensive. 

Some common concerns around the manufacturing of roll stock include the release of greenhouse gases, and increased plastic waste if coffee packaging ends up in a landfill. That said, advancements in packaging materials and production technologies mean environmentally friendly alternatives are available.

Many manufacturers now use sustainable materials to produce roll stock. These include biodegradable or compostable materials, such as kraft and rice paper, and plant-based bioplastics, including polylactic acid (PLA).

“We are direct importers and distributors of specialty coffee within the UK,” explains Wilmer Carcamo, the director of Caribe Coffee Co. “Our compostable coffee bags are made from kraft paper with a PLA lining. This way, we can help our customers reduce the level of waste entering landfills.

“We’re planning to extend our range of compostable packaging to include shipping boxes, and eventually switch out all the packaging for our products.” 

While PLA is a compostable material, it requires a specific type of environment: one that has very specific oxygen levels and temperatures that exceed 60°C (140°F). This often only occurs in industrial compost environments.

Therefore, roasters who invest in multi-layer roll stock will have to communicate disposal instructions to consumers. This will help ensure they do not toss the empty coffee packaging into their compost heap without separating the materials. 

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Can customisation affect the sustainability of roll stock?

As roll stock often features branding and customer information, many wonder whether the use of inks will affect its compostability. This is a common problem in coffee packaging, as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often found in many traditional printing inks. These compounds tend to have a high vapour pressure and a low water solubility, making it harder for them to break down.

Adhesives are another factor roasters must consider when aiming to create completely sustainable coffee bags. That said, increased consumer demand has seen advancement in adhesives, such as AquaBond water lamination and Web Tuck Glueless Rewinder. Both options offer manufacturers and producers highly efficient adhesive solutions that do not affect the quality of the coffee bag.

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide roasters and coffee shops with sustainable coffee packaging that will appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious consumer base. Our range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

Our fully customisable printed roll stock features high-quality images and a design that keeps even the smallest details crisp and crystal clear. Our roll stock is available in a wide range of materials, colours, and layers, with plenty of customisations available. Our design team is available to help you create the ideal coffee packaging by custom-printing your design using innovative digital printing technology.

Notably, compared to conventional printing, eco-friendly digital printing methods consume less energy and resources thanks to reduced setup costs. Additionally, it provides the option to print on biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable films. This allows us to offer coffee roasters worldwide sustainable custom-printed film rolls, low minimum order quantities (MOQs), and a fast turnaround.

Furthermore, we are able to provide our customers with sustainable accessories, such as recyclable degassing valves, kraft paper coffee cup sleeves, and custom coffee boxes to help elevate your brand while boosting your environmental credentials.

For more information on sustainable, customised roll stock, contact our team.

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JP Blignaut
JP Blignaut

JP is a writer for MTPak Coffee and is very passionate about his craft.

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