Are biodegradable coffee bags best for your business?

Maira Kanai-Nasir
May 30, 2024
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According to a report by the United Nations (UN), unless consumption and waste management habits undergo rapid change, the planet could accumulate almost 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste by 2050. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that environmental concerns around packaging, such as 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 centering on the adoption of biodegradable coffee bags.

Biodegradable packaging is durable, fully customisable, and will not contribute to landfill waste or pollution. It’s made from materials that eventually break down into smaller particles. 

But how can you determine if biodegradable coffee bags are the ideal packaging solution for your business? 

To better understand how businesses can benefit from biodegradable coffee bags, I spoke to Nathan Slevin, Global Project Executive in Sustainability at Allpress Espresso

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Will biodegradable coffee bags work for me?

The coffee brands of today have several avenues to take when it comes to growing a business. For instance, you can choose to sell coffee exclusively through online channels and subscription services. Or, you can offer bags of coffee through retail or wholesale means. Deciding which avenue to take will also help you determine which sort of packaging materials to invest in. 

The popularity of biodegradable coffee packaging is on the rise, driven by its significant environmental benefits. In fact, the biodegradable plastic packaging market is projected to reach nearly $9 billion by 2026. This trend underscores the growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions and the viability of biodegradable materials in the market. 

Biodegradable coffee bags are often made using materials such as:

Each material can be used as a single layer or in multiple layers to increase barrier properties. Multilayer coffee packaging comprises composite materials that provide additional barrier properties, strength, and storage stability. It’s formed by coextrusion, lamination, or other coating technologies that enhance the protective qualities of materials and extend the shelf life of coffee.

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How can your consumers dispose of biodegradable coffee packaging?

It’s important to note that adopting biodegradable coffee packaging can come with a few challenges, such as limited access to industrial composting facilities and confusion over disposal. 

Allpress Espresso is a major coffee roaster in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Nathan has worked with the brand for over six years. He shares some information about disposing of biodegradable packaging. 

“It’s always best for consumers to check with their local council for the best disposal method,” he advises. “Some councils have commercial composting facilities that will accept biodegradable material, but this is not consistent from council to council. It’s worth looking into because your area might have better facilities, which means the bag can be kept out of general use.

“Of course, we want to avoid landfills as much as possible; however, that can sometimes be the best option, depending on what facilities are available in your area,” Nathan adds. “If you do have access to commercial composting, remember to remove [any] plastic before disposal.” 

Because of a lack of consumer knowledge, many biodegradable coffee bags end up in an incorrect waste disposal stream, where they fail to decompose efficiently and may contaminate recycling processes.

Nathan believes consumers are not sufficiently aware of what is biodegradable and how to dispose of it. “There is too much inconsistency across local and state governments in terms of infrastructure to support the processing of these materials, and there are not enough end users to buy this material once it has been composted,” he says. 

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The importance of understanding how biodegradable coffee bags break down

The term biodegradation refers to the process whereby microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, break down solid waste. To be truly classified as biodegradable, the waste must not pollute its environment once it has undergone this process, which must run its full cycle within a year of disposition.

Achieving this full biodegradation cycle requires a careful balance of microorganisms, heat, oxygen, moisture, and sunlight. Any alteration in these variables, whether in an industrial plant or at home, affects the speed at which waste can biodegrade.

While all compostable products are biodegradable, not all biodegradable products are compostable. The key distinction lies in the fact that compostable products undergo rigorous testing to guarantee their decomposition within a specified timeframe. Beyond this, they break down without releasing harmful substances into the surrounding environment.

The correct method for disposing of biodegradable coffee bags is to transport them to an industrial or commercial facility suited to the needs of their degradation process. In essence, biodegradable packaging needs an environment where it can decompose through the appropriate combination of all the needed elements. 

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 for your packaging, whether it’s kraft paper, rice paper or PLA, you are, in effect, showcasing your commitment to environmental sustainability to your consumers. It also demonstrates an ability to keep abreast of new trends, giving people confidence and trust in the quality of your product.

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. 

We also guarantee that all our paper-based coffee packaging, including our kraft paper coffee bags, is sourced from forests that have been certified by the FSC.

Contact our team for more information.

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Maira Kanai-Nasir
Maira Kanai-Nasir

Discovering specialty coffee whilst working in Australia, Maira has previously worked in Specialty Coffee as a trainer and coffee product buyer for many years. She currently resides in Dubai, UAE working as a specialty coffee writer, with a strong passion for all things coffee.

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