So many topics to make the world a better place … You finally have a good conscience to have your organic fair trade coffee without an aluminum capsule in your mug. Now you should think about sustainable coffee packaging? Yes, unfortunately!
Admittedly, you cannot yet choose the packaging of your favorite beans at the coffee roaster of trust. But maybe you will find a great coffee that can do both. Or you can ask your roaster whether he or she is interested in switching to more environmentally friendly packaging. In this article I researched the world of coffee packaging for you and listed the advantages and disadvantages of the materials and which are good for both the beans and the environment.
Why is sustainable coffee packaging so important at all?
Roasted coffee can contain up to a thousand different aromatic components. Immediately after the roasting process, the beans emit so-called roasting gases. The perfect coffee taste develops 2-3 days after roasting. This is the reason why many good coffee packages have an aroma valve. This allows these gases to escape, but keeps the air outside. Because this would oxidize the coffee beans and lose many of the volatile aromas after 4-6 weeks. Ground coffee is even more sensitive.
That is why it is often packed in a vacuum. So I have rated the following common packaging for you in terms of environmental compatibility and keeping the coffee aroma. Sure you can also look at the label on the packaging, the inc used and the glue. But I didn’t take that into account for this article. So lets check what sustainable coffee packaging is.
Bags made of aluminum or aluminum composite
+ Aroma | Environment –
Most coffee, especially ground coffee from the supermarket, is still packaged in such bags. These foils are often composite material, mostly made of PET and PE plastics and aluminum. They offer excellent protection for the coffee aroma. However, aluminum pollutes the environment due to the large amount of energy required to process it and the often environmentally harmful degradation. And composite foils can hardly be recycled. Hands off – the coffee packaging should be 100% aluminum-free!
Bags made of PET or PE film
+ Aroma | Environment –
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene (PE) consist of 100% petroleum or natural gas and do not contain any plasticizers. Both plastics are resistant to coffee oil and have a very low permeability for aromas, smells and gases and protect the coffee beans very well. Even if PET foils can be completely recycled into fleece jackets, most of it ends up in the environment and takes about 450 years to decompose.
Kraft paper bags
+ Aroma | Environment –
Attention! These bags look eco outside – but most paper bags are coated with PE or PET on the inside. Of course, coffee retains its aroma for a long time in packaging like this. But that’s definitely not because of the paper. The eco-balance of such bags is even worse than that of pure PE or PET bags because it is a composite material. A little anecdote: In fact, a few years ago at a roaster in Berlin I got my freshly ground mocha in a thin folded paper bag and then quickly filled it into my coffee can at home. The car still smelled of mocha for a week 🙂
Compostable kraft paper bags with PLA
– Aroma | Environment +
It’s hard to tell apart, because there are also kraft paper bags that are compostable. The inside of the paper is PLA coated. PLA is a 100% biologically based plastic made from corn and sugar starch. Even the snap fastener is made of PLA. This sustainable coffee packaging, including the print and adhesive, can be thrown in the organic waste or on the compost. Nevertheless, there is a drawback with this type of packaging, because PLA does not keep the coffee fresh as long as PE and PET. But if you use up freshly roasted coffee within 2 weeks, you can enjoy the full coffee aroma.
There are always voices who say that there are currently no compostable, but only biodegradable coffee bags – unfortunately I haven’t tried it myself yet. However, there are EU standards as to what can be called compostable or just biodegradable. You can also open the discussion here whether it makes sense to manufacture packaging from edible raw materials. As long as half of the harvest in the EU ends up directly underground because the fruits do not meet the specified norm, I hereby close this discussion again immediately 😉
+ Aroma | Environment +
I’ve been wondering for a while if coffee can be packaged in glass. Yes, it can! A few roasters already offer coffee in glass bottles – either for the waste glass container, refill or as a returnable bottle. Some even have an aroma valve integrated into the lid so that the beans can slowly outgas after roasting and develop their aroma. Reusable glass bottles can be refilled up to 50 times. They are best recycled because they are used as raw material for new production. In addition, glass bottles are tasteless and do not release any chemicals.
However, coffee beans are sensitive to light and can lose their aromas due to exposure to high light or a leaky seal. So prefer to use amber glass, even if clear glass looks more stylish.
The glass bottle is definitely my sustainable coffee packaging favorite. I hope there will be more of these soon. Here the first specialty coffee beans that I found on the topic. I was even allowed to test the first three myself. It’s not just the packaging that is right here – damn delicious! Have a try.
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