How can biodegradable coffee bags save you money? 

Tori Taylor
April 15, 2024
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According to a recent report by the United Nations (UN), the planet could accumulate almost 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050 unless consumption and waste management habits undergo rapid change. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that environmental concerns around product packaging, like coffee bags, have taken centre stage in consumers’ minds.

The specialty coffee industry is no stranger to modern consumer expectations. Notably, the sector has rapidly evolved with several new sustainability efforts, such as opting for eco-friendly materials in-store and beyond. Throughout this shift, the industry has become abuzz with discussions centring on the adoption of biodegradable coffee bags.

Biodegradable packaging has become a popular option among coffee roasters because of its sustainability, affordability, and overall durability. However, its benefits extend beyond mere sustainability. 

Richard Ali from Tigray Coffee Co. and John Wilt of Maiden Coffee Roasters explain why their businesses invested in biodegradable coffee bags. 

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Biodegradable coffee bags: Promoting a healthier future 

Biodegradable packaging is made from materials that eventually break down into smaller particles. The time it takes to degrade depends on the item and its environment. Factors such as light, water, oxygen levels, and temperature all affect the degradation process.

Technically, many products can be considered biodegradable, as the only prerequisite is that they degrade. However, to be officially labelled as biodegradable in accordance with ISO 14855-1, 90% of a product must break down within six months. The biodegradable packaging market has grown rapidly over the past few years and was valued at $82 billion in 2020. Many major brands (including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle) have either moved to biodegradable products or pledged to use them more in the future.

“Biodegradable packaging is definitely becoming more popular in the coffee industry as time goes on,” says John, the owner of Maiden Coffee Roasters. “This is, in part, because consumers are becoming more involved in what they are ingesting and how it affects their bodies. Materials in plastic packaging often break down into microplastics.” 

Microplastics are defined as fragments of any type of plastic less than 5mm in length, and concerns about their environmental impact have heightened in recent years. More than 42,000 tonnes of these small fragments are deposited into the environment each year, causing problems for wildlife and ecosystems around the world.

Studies show that traces of microplastics have been found in local crops and food sources in areas such as Nigeria. “Research indicates the presence of microplastics in foods, such as the popular ewedu (jute) leaves used to make a Nigerian soup,” explains Richard, the owner and founder of Tigray Coffee Co. “Non-biodegradable, single-use plastics present a major threat to the environment and public health in Nigeria.”

“Modern consumers are taking a deeper look into their eating habits and how hormone disruptors, such as microplastics, affect their overall well-being,” John says. “In my experience within the specialty coffee industry, trends that start here are usually the canary in the coal mine for what’s to follow in the general news sector.”

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The benefits of biodegradable coffee packaging

The environmental impact of investing in biodegradable coffee bags is substantial. As these bags reduce the use of traditional, non-biodegradable materials, they decrease the carbon footprint associated with a brand. Beyond this, they also help to conserve natural resources, as they’re made of renewable, sustainable materials, such as kraft paper and polylactic acid (PLA)

According to a sustainability briefing by solar panel manufacturer SolarCity’s sustainability briefing, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making a concerted effort to be sustainable.

By switching to biodegradable materials, whether it’s kraft paper, rice paper or PLA, brands are, in effect, showcasing a commitment to environmental sustainability to consumers. It also demonstrates an ability to keep abreast of new trends, giving people confidence and trust in the quality of the product.

Tigray Coffee Co. uses high-barrier ziplock coffee bags made from kraft paper, making them both multi-use and biodegradable. Kraft paper is made using the kraft process, which involves the chemical conversion of wood into wood pulp. Once the lignin and cellulose fibres of the wood are separated, the cellulose pulp is strained and formed into kraft paper. It is a strong and environmentally friendly option. 

Consumers need to be aware of how to dispose of biodegradable packaging correctly to maximise its benefits. This is vital to reducing waste and minimising the impact on the environment. It’s also why Tigray Coffee Co. has committed itself to supporting the development and further establishment of more appropriate plastic recycling initiatives. 

“We understand the need to teach younger generations to become conscious citizens,” Richard says. Furthermore, he believes collaborating with other agents of socialisation, such as traditional institutions and women’s organisations, would benefit an entire community of citizens. He adds that further measures throughout the supply chain and day-to-day café activities would also need to become more widely exercised. “Certifications are always a good guide. In our industry, there are certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which guarantee the paper is sourced from sustainably grown forests.”

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How to ensure biodegradable coffee bags save you money 

Richard and the team at Tigray Coffee Co. are steadily forming the foundation of sustainable packaging in places like Nigeria. At the same time, the brand is helping consumers and roasters understand the benefits of using sustainable alternatives such as biodegradable packaging and the long-term effects this will have on their environment and well-being.

Beyond this, studies indicate that spent coffee grounds (SCG) can be used to create biodegradable packaging materials. This means that eventually, brands may be able to use the organic waste produced from coffee to create their own packaging, reducing the costs of design and manufacturing. 

MTPak Coffee’s biodegradable packaging goes a long way to providing a solution to this pressing issue. And, with 53% of European consumers stating that they are concerned about the current level of plastic waste, it should have widespread appeal to your customers. 

Our biodegradable coffee bags are certified by Din Certco in complete compliance with the European certification standard (EN 13432). Our packaging also proudly carries the Seedling logo, a registered trademark owned by European Bioplastics. This logo communicates that a product is certified industrially compostable by their standards.

Images courtesy of Tigray Coffee Co. and Maiden Coffee Roasters

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

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