First and foremost, we needed to find the right partner for the packaging itself – a company who understood the need to review every aspect of it to ensure we were not overlooking any crucial end of life considerations. We know that there is no quick fix or one size fits all answer when it comes to sustainability as everything has an impact – but it is important to put the work in and look beyond the headlines to bring about longer term change.
Whilst recycling uptake here in the UK is currently higher than composting, we knew we needed to move away from plastic if we want to be part of a movement to reduce the demand for it in the future. Every year, plastic production represents the same amount of oil usage as the entire aviation industry. Only 14% is actually recycled with 40% ending up in landfill and 8 million tonnes entering our oceans. What is more, it is thought human beings ingest a credit card’s worth of plastic every year…
With the challenges around recycling infrastructure, it is evident that home composting is going to become more of a necessity in the future.
For a few years now, most of the big companies have started to advertise compostable packaging in response to the rise in consumer demand for it. This was our starting point. We sampled a range of options, reviewed many spec sheets and sent numerous emails back and forth to ultimately conclude that the majority of these options would only compost in an industrial composting facility – not a lot of use to those of you enjoying coffee at home. Most of them were biodegradable or omnidegradable which risked the leaching of micro plastics or toxins into the environment they break down in. Working our way through the numerous options, it became clear that we needed to be vigilant against potential greenwashing and find a company that was not just reacting to the shift in focus for sustainability but actually helping to drive it.
Grounded Packaging was established in Australia to make sustainable packaging options easier to understand and more transparent – acknowledging the misinformation and opaque supply chains that are out there.
“Two things are happening simultaneously right now:
- Sustainability is fast becoming a main focus for consumer choices.
- The packaging industry has become saturated with meaningless jargon, false claims, misconceptions, unclear supply chains and broken recycling systems.”
Their whole ethos is based on that of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s vision for a Circular Economy where all packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable and where governments and businesses both play a role in end of life infrastructure and objectives.
Other reasons we love what they do:
They are B Corp certified.
They partner with Plastic Bank to help redirect plastic waste from the ocean and build ethical recycling systems involving local communities.
Their network of manufactures are vetted and audited to ensure they meet strict criteria for worker welfare and safety.
We were sold, and specifically on the home compostable option available.
Composting refers to the organic process of biodegradation of a material or product. Essentially it is nature’s form of recycling. For an item to be deemed compostable, it must break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass in a given timeframe. Composting has the additional benefit of mitigating the effects of climate change. Not only does it allow for a majority of household waste to be diverted from methane generating landfill, but the resulting compost has the effect of removing carbon from the air when put back into the land.
- The packaging we work with, (whilst not yet certified home compostable due to being a relatively new mix of material) will degrade in around 6 months in a well managed home compost setup (with oxygen, soil, nitrogen, co2, heat, moisture).
- The bags have the highest percentage of biobased material (cellulose, kraft paper and sugarcane with a compostable valve) of any on the market – what’s more, we are able to calculate our environmental impact and offsetting requirements with technology created by Grounded to account for global transportation too.
- The printing techniques used create less waste and utilise compostable inks – the bags are printed using a flexographic technique that uses up to 30% less ink than other methods.
The label is made from 95% sugarcane and 5% hemp and linen with a compostable adhesive being suitable for home composting too.
As you might imagine from the limited number of companies making this change, switching to home compostable is expensive! 3 times that of the price of recyclable options but it really is a case of the chicken and the egg – without businesses taking on some of the responsibility to grow the demand, the supply will not become as widely available/affordable. We firmly believe that we have a duty to lead here in the hope we can prove a business case to encourage others to do the same.
Currently, only 3 percent of the UK population have a compost bin. We know many of you will not have the space or need to produce compost in your home and some of the bags may still end up in landfills where they will not break down. Ultimately, there is no perfect solution to this problem until we see wider, infrastructural changes with government support but in the meantime help us close the loop by:
- Sending back your packaging to either our roastery or coffee shop and we will compost it for you with our food waste collections.
- Write to your local MP to appeal for composting collections with your local council. You can use this template > Letter to MP.
- Get a discounted (by your local council) compost bin and get composting!
Unfortunately, we are not yet able to offer a home compostable 1kg or 3kg option which remains to be LDPE recyclable plastic in waste stream 4. We have ordered 500 units of a home compostable 1kg bags with our first order as a test and if they are strong enough, we will make the switch longer term – keep your eye on our newsletter or social media for updates here.
- To ensure your 1kg bags get to where they need to, please send them back to us at the Roastery (Unit 10, 280 Tong Road, LS12 3BG) or drop them off at our coffee shop and we will recycle them with First Mile.
So, material sorted it was now time to figure out what we wanted to look like – click the image below to read on!: