How to recycle different types of coffee packaging

No matter how sustainable your lifestyle is, there’s always an opportunity to learn and do more – especially when it comes to recycling materials. There are different rules for different materials and products, so knowing how to recycle properly is the key to making sure those items don’t wind up in the landfill.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, chances are you’re regularly throwing away packaging or filters, but recycling it properly will make sure it can be reused and repurposed without damaging the planet. Here are our tips for recycling coffee packaging materials in the correct way.

What materials are used to create coffee packaging?

The first step to recycling properly is understanding what materials you’re dealing with so you can be sure they’re being recycled in the correct way. Many coffee pouches are made from a mix of materials, which makes recycling them tricky. The purpose of your coffee packaging is to preserve the flavour and aroma of your coffee beans. It can be difficult for retailers to find packaging that meets eco-friendly requirements and also serves its purpose in the most effective way.

Many coffee bags combine aluminium foil or polythene plastic with paper or cardboard, which provides durability and enhances the freshness of the coffee inside. These materials are also flexible and compact, which makes them easy to store. Foil and plastic coffee bags are virtually impossible to separate, so they’re not the most eco-friendly as they can’t be recycled as easily.

Coffee can sometimes be purchased in metal storage tins, which is made from a single material and is a lot easier to recycle, although harder to find as it’s a less cost-effective solution for roasters due to the size and weight of this packaging. Similarly, individual coffee pods are usually made from aluminium, plastic or a mixture of the two.

Recycling coffee packaging in the right way

Composite packaging

Foil or plastic-lined coffee bags can’t be recycled through your local council’s recycling programme, so these have to be thrown away in the usual way. Even if you have a kraft paper coffee pouch, if there’s plastic or aluminium on the inside, you can’t recycle this. These types of packaging are known as composite packaging and the two materials can’t be separated. However, TerraCycle offer some coffee packaging recycling programmes, so it’s worth checking with them as to whether they can recycle the packaging you have.

Kraft paper

If the packaging is untreated kraft paper, it’s completely compostable and biodegradable, so this can either be put in your compost bin or recycled with paper products through your local recycling pick-up. However, contamination is a concern with many recyclable products, so it’s important that you wash off any residual coffee before putting them in the recycling bin.

PLA packaging

Polylactic acid, or PLA, packaging is made from the likes of maize, sugarcane or corn starch, and is produced through a fermentation process that results in a plastic-feeling product made from natural materials. It’s a strong and durable product that protects the coffee, so it’s become a popular choice among coffee roasters in recent years.

PLA is an eco-friendly material that requires less energy to product and is biodegradable at the end of its use. It can decompose in as little as 90 days in the right conditions and is a far more environmentally friendly than a petroleum-based plastic that can take thousands of years to decompose. PLA packaging can be composted at home, although this will take longer than at a specialised facility, and it can also be taken to a specialise recycling centre in your city.

LDPE packaging

Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE, is a flexible, durable and sustainable solution for coffee roasters. It takes just one layer of this material to protect the contents, compared to several layers of other materials, so it’s lighter and easier to recycle. For the consumer, LDPE packaging is much simpler to dispose of, as it’s less prone to contamination and easier to recycle – there are now numerous dedicated facilities around the country for recycling LDPE products where this type of packaging can be recycled.

Final thoughts

Knowing the type of coffee packaging you have, and how to recycle it properly, will help in reducing your waste and helping to save the planet from the climate crisis. The Bag Broker offer a variety of coffee packaging solutions and can advise you on the most eco-friendly options – get in touch today

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