We are finally listening – compostable coffee packaging

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on May 26, 2010 4 Comments
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Suzi Ambrose from Pistol and Burnes coffee

Suzi Ambrose from Pistol and Burnes coffee

Suzie Ambrose has several passions in her life; coffee, writing and photography. Put them together and you’ve got a blogger for Vancouver, B.C. coffee roaster under the name “Coffee Joe Says”!

Suzie lives in the Cariboo in northwestern B.C. The countryside provides fresh fodder for her camera, written observations and a first hand look at organics, the old ways, and the strict stewardship of the farmlands.

She takes photos exactly as she sees them through the lens, and writes the same way. No fixing, no compromising, no adjustments, just doing the research, and waiting for that moment when everything turns out to be all that she hoped for and more. Magic…

Environmental hazards

A quote from Edward Abbey “Our modern industrial economy takes a mountain covered with trees, lakes, and running streams and transforms it into a mountain of junk, garbage, slime pits, and debris.”

The phenomenon of excess packaging started in the early nineties, and is only recently being recognized as an environmental hazard. Packaging has become an important part of the consumer outcry toward finding a solution to environmental problems. Biodegradable packaging, in particular, has become one of the most effective marketing tools. The continuing trend will be aimed at the use of flexible film, a unique, high performance product, made from renewable resources.

Compostable coffee packaging

In the business of coffee, there is primary packaging – what the retailers see – and then there is secondary packaging – the crates, bags and pallets – that bring the raw material for processing to our roaster. Realizing the scope of the problem, we started with one pound bags of coffee. They are one of the few totally compostable bags on the market. We researched very carefully and decided to go with NatureFlex. It uses ‘waste to energy’, supporting the re-routeing of organic wastes from landfill.

Anaerobic Digestion

This method is called “AD”, or scientifically “anaerobic digestion”, and is the new watchword in the landfill world. A series of processes cause micro-organisms to break
down biodegradable material without oxygen; In layman’s terms, these methods turn garbage into power.

It can help reduce greenhouse gasses by:

1)    Replacing fossil fuels
2)    Reducing or eliminating the energy footprint of waste treatment plants
3)    Reducing methane emission from landfills
4)    Displacing industrially-produced chemical fertilizers

Renewable energy

Global packaging companies are beginning to listen. The potential for AD is enormous.  Dr Williams, Polymers and Materials Manager from the NNFCC stated “The UK produces over 100 million tonnes of organic material suitable for treatment by AD.  If this material managed to find its way into digesters we could produce 10-20 TWh of heat and power per year by 2020.  The UK now has a Renewable Energy Strategy for the delivery of 15% renewable energy by 2020, and with government backing the technology, AD promises to contribute significantly to our renewable energy demands.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle

In addition, coffee companies such as ours, have a recycling routine to take away all excess plastics, bins, pallet wrap, foils and film, paper, wrapping, and secondary packaging. Green bean hemp bags are picked up and reused by suppliers of plumbing and machinery parts – they use them to store and carry large items instead of cardboard.
In our case, we are currently negotiating with a large nursery for their use in protecting small trees, bushes and plants.

The landfill must be a final option – reduce waste first, then reuse whenever possible, and as a last resort, recycle.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (4)

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  1. Will says:

    Green mountain coffee has installed a 572 panel solar power system on a distribution center in Vermont. It’s not a zero waste kind of thing but still gets an honerable mention. I try to give them my business.

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @Will: Hi Will, welcome to the site and thanks for your comment; great to hear of your support for the company 🙂

  3. Jane says:

    Oh that more companies would put the word think into the consequences of their packaging and manufacturing and distribution processes. This one has also taken action.

    It is definitely worth contacting companies to show that you are concerned otherwise they will blithely carry on presuming (often wrongly) that their customers don’t care – or worse still that they are happy with their non-recyclable non-sustainable packaging and methods.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: I agree Jane, it’s good to keep contacting manufacturers and sharing our concerns. Some are very forward thinking and prepared to listen to their consumers.

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