Let’s Talk About Recyclable Packaging…

“Our goal is to create positive environmental change and to constantly move towards fixing the things that we cannot yet achieve.”

As a responsible company, we must do all that we can to improve the lives of the people around us, and to protect our planet. Simply put – we need to look at all the bad things that we do and put them right. 
We’ve been talking a lot about our coffee bags in The Granary (our roastery), and we’d like to invite you to the conversation.
Of course, the main function of a coffee bag is to keep our coffee fresh. We roast here in The Granary every day, and we work hard to make sure that our customers always receive fresh coffee – we need to ensure that our bags continue to work for us once they leave the building.
There is little point in being so focused on freshness if we do not package the coffee properly.

Coffee bags need to do a few different things: 

  • Stop air getting to the coffee, to prevent it from ageing
  • Allow CO2 to escape from the bag safely, a process known as degassing. Degassing is something that happens with coffee after roasting – it releases CO2. If the bag doesn’t have a valve, then it can go pop! 
  • Stop light from penetrating the bag, which will negatively affect the coffee

While our bags currently achieve all these things, they have one major downfall – they can’t be recycled. We have made some big steps to have a positive impact on the environment, but we’re acutely aware that our bags are the final frontier – one that we need to do something about sharpish. However, in taking the first steps to finding a better solution, we found that there are more hurdles to overcome.

Our familiar (but flawed) coffee bags

We’ve looked at three main routes when deciding what to do next – bags that are:

  • Compostable
  • Recyclable
  • Biodegradeable

Naturally the compostable and the biodegradable options are the options that we investigated first. These, on the face of it, sound as if they are exactly what we would need. Looking a little closer, things just didn’t quite add up.

Compostable

These materials are generally paper-based and have a plant-based lining, known as PLA (Polylactic Acid). PLA is a natural polymer made using corn starch, or sugar cane. Whilst the manufacturing of these materials uses renewable sources. Although this sounds great, it’s not as easy to dispose of these at home as you would hope.

Home composting – not a viable option for coffee bags (yet)

These bags aren’t home-compostable and have to be taken to an industrial composting facility. If you can’t find an industrial composting facility, then the used bag must go into landfill. Let’s face it, these things should be as easy as possible, and we didn’t think that enough bags would end up being composted if we went down this route. The manufacturing isn’t quite right yet for this to be a viable solution for the home.

Biodegradeable

Everything degrades over time, but it’s the rate at which things degrade which is the key thing here. We had a lot of questions: what does the bag degrade into? How long does it take? Where does it end up? We didn’t find enough satisfying answers to go down this route. The chances are, your bag would just go to landfill – left to degrade with everything else that is also degrading there.

Recycling

Recycling is something that is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, and at home, we’re pretty good at it: that’s the good news. The bad news is that although we hope that our recycling is taken, sorted, and turned into something useful, this generally doesn’t happen. The infrastructure we have in the UK does not allow us to recycle certain plastics, particularly when it is a blend of plastics. Plastic needs to be a mono-structure to be truly recyclable, and when we checked, a lot of bags are made from the blend PET12 / PE-EVOH.

So, what have we done?

We have to make a positive change. Given our options, we’ve decided that the best option for us at this stage is to choose a bag that is made with a mono-structure plastic (and therefore easily recyclable). This means that the whole of the pack, including the valve and the seal, is manufactured from the same material (PE/EVOHPE). We know that this is not ideal, but unfortunately, the ideal solution doesn’t yet exist.

Our new recyclable and carbon-neutral coffee bags!

At the very least, our bags should be capable of being recycled and made into something new.

So, with all that said, please welcome our new coffee bag. We hope you like it as much as we do, and we hope you understand a little more about the process we went through to get here.

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