Sustainable Coffee Packaging: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How You Can Help

default image by Vasileia Fanarioti | Updated on July 9th, 2022

So, you bought that bag of coffee beans you’ve been eyeing in your favorite coffee shop.

After storing in your own coffee canister you are now unsure what to do with the packaging it came in.

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If you somehow ended up reading this article, you have taken the first step in building habits that will make the planet more sustainable.

Hats off to you!

Unfortunately, regarding coffee packaging it seems that the industry is not quite ready to introduce a solution that’s 100% sustainable.

So there are a few things you should know regarding packaging materials before you decide what to do with that bag you are about to throw in the bin.

So let’s find out a bit about sustainable coffee packaging and your role in this.

We are going to cover:

  • How packaging protects your coffee
  • What sustainable coffee packaging means
  • Where does disposable packaging go
  • What this means for you

Let’s dive in!

How packaging protects your coffee

Usually, coffee packaging is made out of flexible material with two or more layers, to protect it from oxygen and moisture. This guarantees its freshness and a prolonged shelf-life. Most packages consist of a degassing valve to release CO2 and a sealing function as well.

According to KontextCoffee, “coffee packaging needs to be “airtight, moisture resistant and non-transparent in order to keep coffee fresh and preserve flavor and aroma. It is crucial to store it in a dark, dry, low oxygen environment.

At the same time coffee degasses (releases CO2) for quite a while after roasting. That means suitable coffee packaging needs to be made of non- transparent material that won’t let any oxygen in but features a one-way-valve that will let the CO2 out.”

As you understand, packaging plays a vital role in keeping your coffee safe before it reaches you. The challenge arises when the time comes to dispose of the packaging and you are unsure what to do.

Before we get to that, let’s look at what makes coffee packaging truly sustainable.

What does sustainable coffee packaging mean?

To understand why it’s so difficult for packaging to be sustainable we need to know what that means.

Many of us think that it’s enough if the packaging is recyclable but unfortunately that’s not true. If we want our coffee packaging to not harm the environment and the planet, it needs to be sustainable throughout its entire lifecycle.

This means all its materials should be sourced, produced, transported and discarded in a way that’s not harmful for the global ecosystem.

There are many companies working towards that end, utilizing raw materials, minimising the carbon footprint and focusing on finding sustainable solutions.

Where does disposable packaging go?

In the meantime, when it comes to disposable packaging there are three waste management facilities:

  1. Organic waste facilities (compostable materials) 
  2. Recycling facilities
  3. General waste facilities

Regarding organic waste and recyclable material, some criteria must be met in order to be processed in the respective facilities. There is the danger that if the material doesn’t meet this criteria it will end up in landfill. In addition to this, many of us confuse compostable materials with biodegradable ones.

Compostable means any material that can break down and give us soil while biodegradable means that the material will break down and decompose in nature either by itself or with the help of an additive. It’s important to note that biodegradable material takes a long time to decompose, even in industrial facilities.

Organic waste as well as recyclable materials have to meet certain criteria in order to be able to be processed in composting or recycling facilities and these criteria can differ depending on the waste management facilities they are being processed in. If they don’t meet the criteria, they are sorted out and end up in the landfill.

According to Unisan, landfill sites are bad for wildlife, nature, environment and global warming, a major source of pollution, and there are many negative issues associated with them. Rubbish buried in landfill breaks down at a very slow rate and remains a problem for future generations.

What does this mean for you?

Too much information? Probably.

But it is necessary information because it’s important to be educated and contribute as coffee drinkers to more sustainable solutions. Like mentioned in the beginning, 100% sustainable coffee packaging options aren’t available yet but there are other things you could do!.

For example:

You could avoid coffee packaging altogether. Bring a coffee tin with you to your favorite coffee shop and ask them to fill it instead of buying a disposable bag of coffee beans from them.

This is the most sustainable solution right now.

So, here’s what you could do:

First, have a chat with the coffee shop staff regarding the packaging material and what are the best ways to dispose of it. If it’s multilayered like most, you will probably need to take the materials apart and dispose of them in different facilities.

However, if you are buying a bag of coffee beans from our recommendation, you’ll most likely get it from Amazon.

Like our best sustainable coffee list or our organic coffee list.

We thank you for your using our affiliate links to keep our site running!

So second, check the packaging for any information on how to dispose of it and if there is not enough information there, you can always reach out to the sellers and ask them or check their website. Most coffee companies are looking for ways to contribute to environmental sustainability so they should be able to help you.

Third, reach out to the local waste management facilities and ask their advice on disposing each material.

That way you stay informed and environmentally conscious. We all need to do our bit and I’m sure that soon enough we will figure out how to solve the sustainable coffee packaging question.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links. Remember to support us by purchasing through the Amazon/Walmart/Impact Radius links provided. Last update on 2024-04-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Vasileia Fanarioti

My name is Vasileia and I’m here because i decided to combine my two favourite things: writing and coffee. Don’t ever make me choose between filter and espresso, although I do have a soft spot for flat whites. I love travelling around the world and visiting coffee shops but my biggest goal is to visit a few coffee farms, to see where it all starts. Hopefully soon I’ll take you there through my articles.