Our new recyclable packaging

Our freshly designed bags of coffee that are now arriving in stores are made of fully recyclable materials.  This has been our long-term ambition and marks a huge achievement for us.

Packaging accounts for around 3% of the coffee supply chain’s total carbon footprint. This might sound low, but we work to reduce our impact across the entire coffee journey.

Our path has followed the industry’s innovations, which now delivers the recyclability and usability we aimed for. We’re delighted to not only reduce our impact on the environment but to be one of the first in the industry to be able to offer this to customers.

This achievement works towards some of our big goals as a business.  As part of our responsible growth framework, the Gold Standard, we require all new products to have a circular life – that means our packaging must remain in use for as long as possible. The new bags also contribute to our 2040 science-based net zero target.

Why now?

Coffee bags have a complex packaging requirement because coffee needs protection from sunlight, moisture and oxygen to preserve its taste, freshness and aromatic characteristics.  A particular challenge was to find a material that provided an oxygen barrier and that was recyclable within UK waste facilities.  We’re proud that this pioneering solution developed by our packaging partner was recognised as a finalist at the UK Packaging Awards in 2022.

How was it developed?

We worked closely with our packaging manufacturer over several years who created this state-of-the-art solution, made of Polyethylene.  It fit the brief: a widely recycled material which retains the coffee’s quality and freshness.  Other special requirements include material stiffness, graphics performance and fast machine run speeds which required a cutting-edge solution which this innovation delivers.

How do I recycle it?

It can be taken to recycling collection points at many large UK supermarkets.  Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Coop, M&S, Morrisons and Aldi all have front of store collection points for flexible plastics such as this. 

What’s the environmental impact?

Our supplier calculates [1] that the new packaging achieves the following when compared to the standard soft bag structure:

  • A plastic reduction of 15-20% versus a typical standard packaging on the marketing in Europe. 
  • A 68% lower carbon footprint.
  • A 62% decrease in non-renewable primary energy demand.
  • A 56% reduction in water consumption.

What about compostable materials?

Compostable material is something we’ve extensively investigated for our bags. Although compostable materials have come a long way, composting facilities need to be further developed for us to consider this as a viable packaging option.

  • ‘Compostable’ products most often require industrial composting which isn’t possible at many UK waste services.
  • Very few households have a home compost, and for those that do, it may not be a suitable solution for compostable material.
  • Many kerbside compostable waste services are not able to recognise compostable packaging from plastics, therefore contaminating the whole compost batch when arriving at recycling facility.

Pushing boundaries

At Cafédirect we believe that we can all Be the Change we want to see. Our mission is to champion the work and passion of small-scale farmers, deliver great tasting drinks and pioneer new and better ways of doing business. To do that, using the best possible sustainable packaging without compromising on the quality of the coffee that has been lovingly grown, is essential.

Next up: rolling out new instant coffee tins to replace the current glass jars. Aluminium tins have a lower carbon footprint, and will be hitting stores in early April 2023. More on this to come.

But we won’t stop here.  We’ll continue to research and adapt to further advancements in packaging materials and waste processing in the UK when we can do so.

[1] Research endorsed by the Carbon Trust

Written by Lauren Morris 16/03/23

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