Greener Beans - Coffee Roasters and the Environment
by Jo West — 28 November 2019
Tags: Recyclable Packaging
The heat is on for all businesses, large and small, to make the move towards more environmentally aware methods of producing, packaging and selling their wares. In this blog post we focus on the adoption of greener initiatives by coffee roasters in the UK and beyond.
It’s impossible not to have noticed that when it comes to how we produce, package and sell our food and drink these days, it’s all about sustainability.
Respect for our environment has come sharply to the forefront of all businesses’ processes regardless whether you’re an enormous, faceless, international conglomerate or a one-man, or woman, coffee roaster crafting your wares from more modest premises.
Traditionally, packaging for freshly roasted coffee beans has heavily relied on environmentally-unfriendly composite bags comprised of a plastic outer and a foil inner barrier in order to keep the contents from oxidising before they reach the consumer.
Unable to be recycled, these wrappings are discarded after just one use and are sadly not biodegradable.
As well as this inner-packaging the mail-order coffee supplier faces another dilemma when sending coffee by post in an outer-wrapping.
As most of us are acutely aware in these days of super convenient internet shopping, too many envelope-style parcel packs are formed of single use plastic or contain an inner layer of bubble wrap which is also unlikely to be used more than once.
However, in order to remain appealing to consumers, artisan coffee producers, like all businesses, are having to seek out more environmentally ways of packing and transporting their produce in order to remain appealing in the age of acute environmental concern.
Here are some of the ways that our suppliers and others in the industry are tackling these problems head-on.
One of our partners, Casa Espresso from Bradford, have recently switched to 100% recyclable plastic coffee bags from the manufacturer Dutch Coffee Pack which have been designed to keep their contents in as good condition as their previous composite counterparts.
These radically different, brightly coloured coffee bags feel like a luxurious, premium paper but can surprisingly be recycled with plastic waste.
Their production also has a neutral carbon footprint and what’s more their practical design means that they stand neatly on a shelf.
Jonnie from Casa explains why they made the switch:
“For us going recyclable with packaging was a no-brainer. The whole team is very eco minded, myself and Hugh both have veggie plots at home where we had put used coffee grounds to good use as mulch and compost…We reuse and recycle where possible so changing our packaging was an easy move. It's been really well received by all our customers, and the main thing is we haven't had any negative feedback- early recyclable bags were touted for not being good at keeping coffee fresh- but we tested the bags before we made the move full time and we haven't seen any difference, and with more design options being made available now by bag manufacturers there's plenty of choice to keep our branding individual and unique.”
Another of our associates, Horsham Coffee Roaster have also removed foil from their coffee packaging and switched to a single material bag made of recyclable plastics and have a specific page on their website to advise how best to recycle them.
This type of pack has also been adopted by the influential Norwegian roaster, Tim Wendelboe who says “We…spent over a year finding a bag that is suitable for recycling and has a barrier that is good enough to keep the coffee fresh. Since we operate with 3-4 weeks shelf life of our coffee after roasting date, the plastic pouches provided by Dutch Coffee Pack are perfect for our use”
Our colleagues at Foundry Coffee Roasters have also recently been improving their green credentials.
A very simple, but hugely beneficial change was to simply wrap their orders using recycled brown paper which still provides great protection for beans on their travels. Sometimes the old ways really are the best!
In addition to this their 250g coffee bags are also now fully recyclable. Foundry have previously paid a specialist company to recycle their composite bags - but this relied on people getting the bags back to them. As a result they have decided that the recyclable option is likely to make the most impact.
Foundry are in the process of sourcing recyclable bags in their larger, 1kg size too and hope to have these available shortly.
Biodegradable post bags
Based in New Zealand and Australia The Better Packaging company have launched a range of compostable courier satchels which feel and behave exactly like plastic but are entirely biodegradable with no toxic residues or micro plastics left behind.
They’re also compostable at home which makes them ideal for the 250g roasted coffee mail outs that our Coffee Roaster partners rely on. Hopefully there will be packaging like this widely available in Europe soon too.
Sorting the chaff from the wheat (or bean!)
Chaff is the husk or dried skin on a coffee bean which comes off during the roasting process. It is a purely waste by-product of roasting which can, as Rounton Coffee Roasters from Yorkshire imaginatively discovered in 2014, be compressed into a pleasing briquette shape and burnt for warmth as a pleasantly fragrant fuel!
Chaff also makes excellent compost or as mulch as the matter is organic, light and airy, it is ideal for the garden compost bin where it quickly breaks back down into its main nutritional elements.
Hugh from Casa Espresso even uses the chaff from the roaster as bedding for his chickens- they love it!
Let us know you if you’ve come across other sustainable initiatives from the coffee industry, we’d love to hear from you!