Eco-friendly design techniques for recyclable coffee bags

Antonio Salles
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February 22, 2024
recyclable coffee bags, coffee bags, coffee packaging, recycable coffee packaging, Decadent Decaf Coffee Co

As more consumers become environmentally conscious, businesses are under pressure to adopt sustainable practices and packaging materials. One way specialty coffee roasters have done this is by switching to recyclable coffee bags.  

That said, using recyclable coffee bags may not be enough to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. To turn recyclable coffee bags into a brand advantage, specialty coffee roasters must ensure they are customised and disposed of correctly. 

To gain a better understanding of the importance of recyclable coffee bags, I spoke to Clara Malmros of Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. 

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The importance of investing in recyclable coffee bags 

For something to qualify as ‘recyclable’, the material must be capable of being used again, either for the same purpose or for a new product. Recycling aims to reduce the consumption of raw materials, thereby reducing energy usage, air pollution, and water pollution. Beyond this, it offers a sustainable solution to regular waste streams by lowering input into municipal landfills.

Consumers can determine whether something is recyclable by searching for the universal recycling symbol: a triangle made up of three arrows looping back on themselves in a clockwise direction. 

This symbol indicates that a product can be recycled, however, it does not denote whether it has been produced from recycled materials. Occasionally, the symbol will feature a percentage in the middle, which signifies how much of the product is derived from recycled materials.

Certifications are a highly effective way to inform consumers their coffee bags are recyclable. For instance, the ‘Mobius loop’ indicates the packaging is recyclable, while the ‘Green Dot’ signifies to the consumer that the roaster has made a financial contribution towards recycling efforts. 

It’s important to remember that “many customers expect more than just the coffee bag to be recyclable,” explains Clara, who is also the founder and master coffee taster at The Little Bean Co. “They expect quality, durability and those little extras, such as a resealable zipper, to keep the coffee fresh.”

As the specialty coffee market grows, custom packaging has become essential for brands to stand out. A range of finishing techniques, such as spot UV, debossing, embossing, and hot foil stamping, provide ways to customise sustainable packaging materials without sacrificing their eco-friendliness. 

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What to consider when customising recyclable coffee bags

As demand for environmentally friendly packaging increases, more brands are realising the benefits of recyclable coffee bags. That said, a crucial step is to ensure the materials are actually recyclable. 

As previously mentioned, certifications are essential for verifying that packaging materials are recyclable. Additionally, they give customers peace of mind that the products they choose will not negatively impact the environment.

These certifications are offered by respected organisations such as the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Customers might feel more confident about recycling their coffee bags if they feature certifications from organisations such as Cradle to Cradle.

“Now that there are great options for recyclable bags, which still keep the coffee fresh, there really is no excuse,” Clara says. “And, if you don’t have the capital to invest in branded bags then most coffee bags suppliers offer stock coffee bags made from low density polyethylene (LDPE #4) on which you can apply labels.”

The focus that Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. places on recyclable material certifications is indicative of its dedication to sustainability. The brand aims to provide full transparency about its packaging and provides essential information on its website. The team at Decadent Decaf Coffee understand the disposal of sustainable coffee packaging depends on several factors, including location, waste management infrastructure, and distribution channels. 

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Understanding the importance of sustainability in coffee packaging

It’s important to note that certifications may not be enough to encourage consumers to participate in the recycling process. This is why clear communication and instructions on disposal are crucial.

Certain parts of recyclable coffee bags, such as zippers and degassing valves, may have to be removed before they can be recycled. Providing customers with instructions on how to remove these components from the packaging can help guarantee they will dispose of it correctly. .

“Playing on the fact that you’ve chosen a sustainable coffee bag can bring you nothing but positive gains,” Clara notes. “Customising the design of your bag is like having a canvas to paint a picture of your brand and what you stand for. If your coffee is organic, you’ll certainly feature the organic certification on the bag. A customer might just pick your brand over another based solely on certifications. Overall, signalling that you offer recyclable coffee bags is more likely to tip the scales in your favour.”

One of the most important factors to consider when disposing of recyclable coffee packaging is to ensure that it’s clean and free from contaminants. In the US, one in four waste packages cannot be recycled because they contain contaminants, such as food debris, for instance. Roasters should encourage consumers to remove any residual chaff or small, broken coffee beans to make sure the packaging is fully recyclable.

Coffee roasters can also include information for consumers on how best to dispose of their empty pouches by customising packaging or labels, or providing QR codes that can scan with their phones to learn more.

Packaging is essential for keeping coffee safe in its journey from roastery to cup. It allows for safe transport, preserves flavours and aromas, prolongs shelf life, and, if processed correctly, reduces waste. There’s no doubt that researchers and packaging manufacturers will keep improving solutions with the aim of offering 100% sustainable coffee bags. 

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of fully recyclable coffee bags with one layer of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and one of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH). These function as a barrier to oxygen, while being completely sustainable. 

Our recyclable coffee packaging uses just two layers, compared to the three or four in many coffee bags around the world. This means we use less energy during manufacturing while making the packaging easier for roasters and consumers alike to dispose of sustainably.

Images courtesy of Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. 

For more information on recyclable coffee bags, contact our team. 

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