Exploring the benefits of collecting recyclable coffee bags

Maira Kanai-Nasir
July 5, 2024
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A recent survey of twelve countries found that 96% of people said recycling helps the environment, while 89% said it is the bare minimum we can do for the environment. However, the same survey reveals that 31% of consumers are not confident that recyclable packaging is being recycled at all. 

Many consumers are unsure of how to separate recyclable materials correctly, which has led to a phenomenon known as aspirational recycling, or “wish cycling”. This refers to the act of putting items such as recyclable coffee bags in a ‘green’ bin and hoping they will be processed correctly, even if there is little evidence to confirm this assumption. 

Research shows that only around 30% of glass, 69% of metal, and 68% of paper sent to recycling facilities is recycled. There are multiple reasons for this, which can range from a lack of return on investment, which makes recycling unprofitable, to items contaminating the recycling waste stream. That said, collection programmes for recyclable coffee bags have become more popular, allowing brands to ensure their packaging is disposed of correctly. 

Read on as Stephen Clarke, the Head of Communications at TerraCycle and Loop, Europe, and Clara Malmros of Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. share their thoughts on how collecting recyclable coffee bags can benefit your business. 

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Why should your business collect recyclable coffee bags? 

Having a dedicated bin where consumers can place empty recyclable coffee bags can help boost brand loyalty and trust. It shows them that, as a brand, you are committed to protecting the environment and reducing your carbon footprint. This is particularly important as the percentage of eco-conscious consumers continues to grow

Coffee bag collection programmes, such as Loop and TerraCycle, have been developed to mitigate the inefficiencies of existing recycling infrastructure and make it easier for consumers. These collection points help to ensure empty coffee bags are sent to facilities that can effectively recycle less common forms of waste, decreasing the likelihood of recyclable materials ending in a landfill. In essence, coffee packaging collection works to establish a circular economy, reducing the need to extract and refine new virgin materials from the planet.

By offering and collecting recyclable coffee bags, brands can ensure they’re contributing to a circular economy. Clara, who is also the founder at The Little Bean Co. explains that many customers expect more than just the coffee bag to be recyclable. 

“They expect quality, durability, and those little extras, like resealable zippers, to keep the coffee fresh,” she says. 

Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. in the UK uses recyclable coffee bags made from polyethylene (PE) number 4. “All of our packaging is now made from recyclable materials. We chose to use this material as it is easy to recycle in our areas, and it is an effective, airtight material that keeps the coffee from going stale,” Clara explains. 

“Now that there are great options for recyclable bags, which still keep the coffee fresh, there really is no excuse,” she adds.

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How can your business collect recyclable coffee bags? 

Brands have several options for collecting recyclable coffee bags. For instance, business owners can do their own research and partner with local recycling facilities. Alternatively, they can partner with businesses like TerraCycle, whose recycling solutions are designed to address all the existing pain points of recycling. 

The company has taken a unique approach to address one of the largest obstacles to recycling: profitability.

“TerraCycle can recycle those ‘difficult to recycle’ items because we work closely with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process,” Stephen explains. “Our Research and Development (R&D) team analyses the materials to determine how to process them into something new. This includes breaking down the waste, separating it into its building blocks, and then recycling those materials for new applications,” he adds. 

Notably, TerraCycle offers both free and paid recycling options that are tailored for almost anything. The paid option is the Zero Waste Box, and is often used for harder-to-recycle items. This option can be completely customised to suit whatever materials the coffee roaster or cafe is trying to recycle.

“A Zero Waste Box is a complete and convenient solution,” Stephen explains. “It includes the storage, shipping, and recycling of a particular type of waste that is not currently recycled through local councils or traditional recycling facilities.” 

All brands would need to do is select the box that suits their needs and fill it with the intended rubbish. This can then be shipped back to TerraCycle using the pre-paid UPS shipping label affixed to the back of the box. It is important to note all shipments are carbon-neutral, meaning the carbon emissions released during transport will be offset.

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How recyclable coffee bags benefit your business

Sustainability and climate change are topics that gain momentum every year, especially among the younger generations. Additionally, statistics show that consumers are more likely to support brands that are aware of social and environmental issues and take the necessary action. Being active in that space can help emphasise the core values of a coffee shop or roastery. This, in turn, may help inspire customers and other businesses to double down on their sustainability goals.

Consumers want to recycle, but they also want it to be easy. A coffee bag collection programme shows consumers that your business listens to their demands and makes the necessary adjustments. 

At MTPak Coffee, we understand the importance of providing consumers with coffee packaging that can be disposed of easily. We offer 100% recyclable LDPE packaging that uses just two layers, compared to the three or four in many coffee bags around the world. 

This means we use less energy when manufacturing it, and it’s also much easier for specialty coffee roasters and consumers alike to dispose of it sustainably. More so, our team can custom print coffee bags that reflect your brand identity and stand out on the shelf. We can help you select from a range of sustainable materials and additional components to design the perfect packaging for your needs.

Furthermore, we are able to digitally print coffee packaging with a quick turnaround and shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging, no matter what size or material.

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

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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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