Sustainability is // Packaging
Fresh prints on fresh bags; our new spotlight coffee is here and it's brought about a new look for our retail packaging. It’s hard to sum up how excited we are about this change. At first, it's probably hard for you to understand why. There is a bit to say, I’ve decided to introduce the new bags and combine this post with the ‘Sustainability Is’ articles I was writing last year (apologies these haven’t been more prolific, i’ll blame the pandemic for that).
These bags are 100% paper based, meaning they can be recycled with your household paper. It’s this simplicity that makes it so good; they are recyclable in 100% of homes across the country, making the best possible end of life scenario very achievable, no matter where they go.
Why the change?
The environmental credentials of food packaging have become confusing at best, often representing the perfect oxymoron. Often, plant based plastic alternatives are worse than their predecessors in terms of emissions and their impact on the land. Plus, more often than not, they go into general waste and then landfill, making the whole thing almost entirely pointless.
Nothing is worse than misleading marketing and the resulting naivety it leaves us with. In recent years, lots of coffee roasters have started selling their produce in ‘100% recyclable bags’ made from LDPE 4. This is the same plastic that is used for single use bags from the supermarket. In our County (Cornwall), the only places you can return this type of plastic for recycling in the supermarket. We haven’t done the surveys, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say there is a tiny percentage of people returning this type of packaging to the supermarket for recycling. Especially when you hear that nationally only 5% of LDPE produced actually gets recycled.
Whilst I don't think the companies using these bags are purposefully misleading, It’s fairly obvious that LDPE 4 is not the answer the marketing would suggest. Likewise, we were desperate to avoid the double packaging scenario that's become so common; packaging coffee in 1 bag, then placing that in a box or a tube. Talking about the recyclability of the exterior seems a little disingenuous if you ask me.
When looking for a solution we could truly get behind, we had to accept that we have a national waste problem, poor infrastructure and varying facilities across the Country. Whilst I have singled out LDPE 4 as a red herring, we also questioned the true value of our old packaging (which is omni-degradable) in the home environment, given that reports suggest 97% of households in the UK do not compost.
So, what to do?
Right now, we believe the best answer is using a material that is easy to for the end user to recycle and gets recycled in the UK. According to the ‘Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs’ Paper and Card are the most widely recycled materials, with a much better sounding 79% being recycled, most of this in the UK.
We knew our friends at ‘Cornish Seaweed’ were using a paper based bag produced by Sirane (in the UK) and started to experiment with storing our coffee in their ‘earthpouch’ to see how effective the low-barrier with keeping coffee fresh. The barrier was pretty much as expected, better than paper but not quite good enough. There was a noticeable difference in taste after 2 weeks storing coffee in a sealed bag, so we went back to see if they had any alternatives.
The result is this, our new high barrier, paper based and plastic free bag. The pouches are heat sealable and will keep your coffee fresh for up to 4 weeks. This is not as long as our old bags and we're genuinely happy about that. We want people to be excited about freshness and look forward to receiving their coffee regularly, not storing coffee in cupboards for months on end. Once you start thinking about it the problem seems so obvious; over-engineered bags that pollute the land and break our connection to fresh produce. Bad vibes.
If 4 weeks seems like a small window to drink your delicious coffee, then you can always decant those little nuggets into an airtight container. This is something we would always recommend, regardless of the packaging (once you open the seal of any bag the oxygen barrier is compromised).
From a life cycle perspective, this is a massive step forwards for us. We hope you like the bags - buy fresh and recycle them with your paper waste - it's as easy as that.
Grab a bag here