Should you invest in home compostable coffee bags?

Tori Taylor
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February 1, 2024
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In today’s evolving market, specialty coffee roasters must ensure they’re not only ticking all the boxes but also exceeding customer expectations. Recent studies show that one of these expectations is sustainable packaging, such as compostable coffee bags. 

A recent study shows that of 4,000 respondents, 61% say they expect to have the option of sustainable packaging when shopping online. Additionally, another study found consumers expect more compostable packaging options to be introduced to the market. 

Made from organic matter, which disintegrates naturally over time, compostable packaging helps businesses reduce their environmental impact and create more sustainable products. 

Thanks to improved technology and heightened awareness of their obvious environmental benefits, compostable coffee bags have become a popular option for specialty coffee roasters. 

But how far do the benefits of compostable coffee packaging extend? To learn more, I spoke to several coffee professionals who have invested in the material.

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Understanding the importance of compostable coffee packaging

A recent report revealed that 78% of consumers admitted sustainability is important to them. Notably, 84% admitted that poor environmental ethics would turn them away from making a purchase. A critical advantage of compostable materials is that they break down into organic compounds that do not harm the environment. 

In many instances, these compounds can even be beneficial to the soil. Two out of five UK households either compost at home or have access to shared composting facilities. This allows people to take advantage of composting to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers, boosting sustainability and encouraging insects and birds to visit their gardens.

There are several benefits to investing in compostable packaging materials, such has:

  • Helps to divert organic waste from landfills
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduces dependency on fossil fuels
  • Lowers the carbon footprint of your business
  • Can be recycled into nutrient-rich compost. 

Compostable coffee packaging is typically made from various natural materials, such as sugar cane, corn starch, potato starch, and wood pulp. 

Compostable materials are a popular packaging alternative as microorganisms can break them down into compost. This helps reduce a large portion of plastic pollution by driving it away from waterways and landfills. With home composting, the decomposition of organic waste into compost may take up to 180 days, but industrial composting facilities can decrease this time to 3 months.

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Are compostable coffee bags best for your business? 

Ashley Bodine, the chief financial officer and co-founder of Vigilante Coffee Company admits compostability was top of their agenda while choosing packaging for the brand. “We decided to go with compostable packages because they will break up, whether they end up in a home compost or as trash.” She adds that “they break down faster than plastic or something that you would normally recycle.”

To ensure its coffee bags are disposed of properly, Ashley explains the brand has a page on its website that explains the correct disposal and composting methods. “Additionally, we don’t use plastic lids,” notes Ashley. “The lids for our takeaway coffee cups are made of paper because it is fully compostable.” 

Cardinal Coffee Roasters chose to invest in compostable coffee packaging materials because we feel it is one of the most ethically responsible routes,” explains co-owner, Charles Zollinger. “I understand compostable packaging costs more, but it shouldn’t always be about making maximum profits. I hate to see plastic thrown away, so our coffee bags compost naturally in refuse.”

Choosing compostable packaging can help enhance a brand’s existing image while attracting new, eco-conscious consumers. This, in turn, expands the brand’s overall reach. Additionally, by diverting packaging from landfills, compostable bags contribute to overall waste reduction. 

However, there are slight challenges around the use of compostable coffee bags. Effective composting requires a specific facility or at-home composting setup, and not all regions may have access to this. Therefore, compostable bags may end up in waste streams, undermining their decomposition benefits.

This is why it’s essential that brands ensure custom coffee bags are compostable in the area. Beyond this, consumer awareness is crucial as improper disposal could damage a brand’s reputation.

Additionally, it’s vital for coffee businesses to provide consumers with the correct information about local composting standards. Brands should ensure to include this throughout the process of designing custom packaging and marketing materials, in order to convey information easily and effectively.

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Ensuring a sustainable coffee business

Specialty coffee brands have a unique opportunity to further enhance their commitment to sustainability. For example, some have implemented a comprehensive composting scheme in their physical stores. Brands have established designated bins within the store where consumers can conveniently deposit used coffee bags. This allows the business to ensure proper disposal. 

Ensure clear and effective signage, guiding both consumers and staff to avoid cross-contamination. This proactive approach demonstrates a brand’s dedication to environmentally responsible practices but also actively involves customers in the eco-friendly disposal process. In turn, this can help foster a sense of shared responsibility for sustainable choices within the coffee community.

For coffee roasters wanting to invest in compostable packaging, there are several key benefits that align with growing consumer preferences. Those choosing to offer compostable packaging contribute to sustainability by reducing waste and diverting packaging from landfills. All while using materials that produce less of a carbon footprint.

Making the choice to use compostable coffee bags reflects a commitment to responsible business practices. There are challenges, which include consumer education or the creation of in-store composting schemes. However, the long-term advantages in terms of brand reputation and meeting consumer expectations make the investment a strategic and forward-thinking choice for coffee roasters.

By choosing to offer compostable coffee bags, coffee brands position themselves as leaders and ‘do-gooders’. Beyond this, they enhance market appeal in an increasingly competitive consumer landscape.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee packaging solutions made from natural sources such as kraft paper, rice paper, and LDPE with an eco-friendly PLA lining. We also give you the freedom to personalise every detail of your packaging, and our design team is always ready to help when needed. 

Our packaging solutions will both protect your coffee and provide consumers with a pouch that can be disposed of in compost heaps once empty. MTPak Coffee’s kraft paper and PLA packaging are certified by TÜV Austria as OK compost HOME and OK compost INDUSTRIAL, while our degassing valves are also compostable.

Images courtesy of Vigilante Coffee Company

For more information on customising compostable coffee bags, contact our team

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