How to find 100% biodegradable coffee bags

Nuvin Sithanen
June 18, 2024
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Recent reports from the United Nations (UN) indicate that the planet could accumulate almost 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste by 2050 unless consumption and waste management habits undergo rapid change. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that environmental concerns around single-use packaging 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 alternatives, such as biodegradable coffee bags.

Essentially, biodegradation refers to the process by which microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, break down solid waste. To qualify as biodegradable, the solid waste must cause no pollution to its surrounding environment once it has biodegraded, and full biodegradation must occur within a year. 

That said, how can you be sure you’ve invested in 100% biodegradable coffee bags and haven’t fallen victim to greenwashing?

I spoke to John Wilt of Maiden Coffee Roasters to learn more about investing in biodegradable coffee bags. 

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The search for 100% biodegradable coffee bags 

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. Notably, the global market value of biodegradable packaging is expected to reach $810 billion by 2032. 

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.

Biodegradable options are available for packaging accessories, such as resealable zippers and degassing valves. Degassing valves that are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) industrial compost protocol and TUV’s OK Compost industrial protocol biodegrade in 180 days when processed in an approved composting facility. 

Combining biodegradable packaging materials with the appropriate accessories often results in 100% biodegradable coffee bags. However, it’s essential to communicate disposal instructions so that consumers do not inadvertently add to landfill waste. 

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Do consumers want biodegradable coffee bags?

“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.

“Modern consumers are taking a deeper look into their eating habits and how hormone disruptors, such as microplastics, affect their overall well-being,” he adds. Defined as fragments of any type of plastic less than 5 mm in length, concerns around the impact of microplastics on the planet have heightened in recent years. It’s estimated that 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.

Beyond this, a recent study asked consumers from ten countries how concerned they were about the environmental impact of product packaging. Around 55% of participants said they were “extremely concerned” about the packaging materials or product. Additionally, nearly 70% said they’d pay more for products in sustainable packaging. Ultimately, brands that provide sustainable packaging solutions may capture a larger market share. 

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Essential factors to consider when investing in biodegradable coffee packaging

Investing in sustainable coffee packaging is pointless if your consumers aren’t aware of it. Therefore, you must indicate that your packaging materials come from sustainable sources. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 36% of consumers would buy sustainably packaged products if they were better labelled. 

Adding certifications to custom coffee bags shows the packaging aligns with the integrity and ethics of the business, which promotes trust and confidence in consumers. Certifications can also help a product stand out and attract customers who share the brand’s values. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO): “Coffee certifications can demonstrate to consumers that coffee has been produced sustainably and can increase its market value if there is sufficient demand”. 

Beyond this, certified coffee bags can influence how customers perceive the product’s value. Notably, a recent study found that consumers are willing to pay a premium of €1.481 per 250g for the Fairtrade label and €1.379 per 250g for the UTZ label. 

Additionally, it is essential that you make your biodegradable coffee bags attractive, safe, and easy to use. Implementing the latest packaging trends can be a surefire way to gather consumer attention. 

Research continues to show how shapes and colours in packaging can influence taste perception and anticipated enjoyment. For example, round shapes, bright colours, and low saturation suggest a mild taste. Alternatively, triangular shapes, dim colours, and high saturation indicate a sharper taste. A round shape evokes the highest level of liking. Using shapes in custom coffee bags can also influence consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. 

Research suggests that consumers form an impression of a brand or product within seven seconds. Therefore, it’s vital that, at first glance, coffee packaging sets the scene for what’s to come and creates a positive brand perception.

Additionally, the use of consistent branding, such as a recognisable colour palette, can enhance brand recall by as much as 80%. Repeated exposure to your brand’s unique colours establishes a strong association in customers’ minds, linking the palette directly to your brand. 

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.

Article body images courtesy of Maiden Coffee Roasters

For more information on biodegradable coffee bags, contact our team

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Nuvin Sithanen
Nuvin Sithanen

Nuvin is a specialty coffee professional with experience in a variety of sectors in the industry, including green coffee sourcing and coffee equipment distribution. He is actively involved in the South African coffee industry, providing coffee beans and equipment to both home baristas and businesses.

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