Packaging (aka the bain of our life!)
We love roasting coffee, we also love drinking coffee, but a byproduct of this luxury item is it's packaging, for us this comes in the form of a bag.
The bag has a few jobs it must perform in order to be useful.
Actually quite a lot for just a bag. This makes it all the more sad that it's destined for a very short life!
So with all this in mind and considering we're coffee roasters and not packaging manufacturers, we have to choose the best solution available to us today!
Why not plastic?
Even if recyclable, plastic is still produced using petroleum, a non renewable fossil fuel. Coffee packaging has to be made from virgin material, as it is not currently possible to produce coffee packaging with recycled plastic. If not recycled it takes over 1,000 years for plastic packaging to completely disintegrate, and even then the microplastics continue to filter through water, soil and animals.
But what’s wrong with recyclable plastic?
We are not confident that plastic is actually being recycled.
Britain does not have the infrastructure to recycle its own plastic waste. Roughly two-thirds of plastic waste in the UK is sent overseas to be recycled. This waste is sold via brokers and shipped to countries such as Egypt and Malaysia. These countries do not have the facilities to deal with this waste and it is often dumped in landfill or burnt unsafely in open fires, damaging local ecosystems and emitting toxic fumes.
We do not believe in sending plastics to developing nations to be “recycled”. There’s also a definite carbon cost in shipping waste across the globe.
Although compostable packaging is far from perfect we believe it’s the most sustainable option available at the moment, and we’re hopeful that the situation will improve with more composting happening in the near future. We’re confident that composting technology is improving every day and that compostables will be accepted by more authorities before too long.
What should I do with my empty Pilgrims bag?
Compostable packaging can be composted at industrial scale composting facilities, so you can put these in with your green waste but only if it goes to one of these facilities - your council will be able to tell you where your green waste goes. Don’t worry about removing the air valve or the paper label, they’re fine to go in with the rest.
Compostable plastics should not go in with your dry recycling as they cannot be recycled in the same way as non-biodegradable plastic..
Why aren't our bags home compostable?
We sell our coffee online and in some lovely local shops, these shops require the coffee to last a bit longer on the shelf without going stale, also it's nice for home brewers to be able to just store the coffee in the bag for more than a week and have it still taste amazing.
The material that makes up our bags is potentially compostable anywhere under the right condition, it needs to be a steady 50-70’c, have plenty of oxygen present and also the right mix of compostables delivering nitrogen and carbon. This is well controlled in a commercial in vessel facility and so our bags will break down completely in a matter of weeks.
At home it's a little trickier if not impossible to get the conditions right. By making the bags a certain thickness we helped the coffee last longer, quite a bit longer. But we also created the need for perfect conditions in order to break down the thicker material.
What are the bags made from?
Our compostable bags are made with three layers to protect our coffee from moisture, direct sunlight and oxygen. The structure being Kraft paper/PLA/PLA.
Our labels are also compostable and are made from cane fibre or kraft paper with a compostable adhesive, meaning they do not have to be removed after use.
What is PLA?
Polylactic acid (PLA) packaging is made from a resin that often comes from starchy plants,such as corn, sugar cane, or sugar beet.
What happens if put into a regular bin?
If put into a regular waste bin our packaging will be incinerated or sent to landfill.
Incineration: PLA can be incinerated, leaving no residue and (hopefully) producing energy. When PLA is incinerated, its burning heat value is the same as that of incinerated paper, which is half of that of traditional plastics (such as polyethylene), and the incineration of PLA will never release toxic gases such as nitrogen compounds and sulfur compounds.
Landfill: the least preferable option is landfilling because PLA degrades very slowly in ambient temperatures, however unlike regular plastic the PLA is non toxic.
We feel the worst case scenario for plant based packaging (landfill) is preferable to the worst case scenario for recyclable plastics, equally the best case scenario for plant based packaging is considerably better than the best case for plastic.
Burning plastic waste for energy is also not a renewable source of energy, while burning compostable packaging composed of plant sourced material would be considered renewable, similar to the burning of biomass.
If you’re concerned about disposing of your bags in the correct way, feel free to return them to us at Pilgrims Coffee, Falkland House, Marygate, The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, TD15 2SJ.
And we will ensure they are responsibly disposed of.
I hope you understand our reasonings, we are constantly searching for the best available option. And remember if you live nearby you can always pop in with your reusable container and we can fill it for you.