Towards More Sustainable Packaging

We're making changes to our packaging to make it more sustainable. Take a look below to discover our next steps...

Coffee packaging accounts for 3% of the total carbon footprint of the coffee supply chain. While this may seem low, we aim to reduce the environmental impact at every stage of the coffee journey.

We know reduction of packaging is the first step – and we’ve made changes in the past year to reduce our packaging where possible, saving 877 kgs of packaging materials last year. All our cartons are already fully recyclable but our coffee bags are unfortunately not. Our next step is moving to more sustainable packaging materials.

After 18 months of careful research and testing, we’ve begun implementing changes to our packaging materials to make them more sustainable. Provided our trials are successful, in 2022 we will make all our packaging fully recyclable by implementing 100% paper and 100% recyclable monoplastic solutions.

Why and what are we changing?

A solution for coffee packaging has been difficult to find mainly due to the need to protect the coffee from oxygen. Our current packaging uses a plastic layer laminated with aluminium, providing a great oxygen barrier that helps keep the coffee fresh. This means you’re able to enjoy the coffee at its best so you can appreciate the skill of both our farmer partners and expert roasters. Ensuring you enjoy our coffee at its best has been a key focus during our research, as has the UK waste processing capacities. Unfortunately, this mixed material means our packaging is not currently recyclable in most councils.

We’re going to be using fully recyclable paper bags for our roast to order coffee sold via our website, with trials started in October 2021. For our grocery bags, we’re making the change to fully recyclable plastic bags which we’re currently trialling at the roastery (expect to see them in-store in 2022!).

Why paper?

We’re going to use fully recyclable paper bags for all of our roast to order coffee ordered via our website. Here’s why…

  • You can recycle paper easily at home. The new bags can be recycled by using household, kerbside paper recycling.
  • Paper is a renewable resource. Plus, our bags are also FSC certified, meaning the production of the paper follows FSC’s principles of the environmental, social and economic factors in forest management.
  • Paper production has low CO2 emissions.
  • Although paper doesn’t provide as an effective oxygen barrier compared to plastic, this is sufficient for coffee ordered direct from our roastery, with a shorter period between roasting and drinking (usually 1-4 weeks).
  • Why recyclable plastic?

    Coffee which is sold in grocery has a longer journey to people’s homes, and coffee needs an oxygen barrier to keep it fresh. We have consulted industry experts and our grocery partners (who are working hard on finding sustainable packaging solutions as well) and have created a solution for now. Considering the current UK recycling infrastructure, recyclable monoplastic is the best option for our coffee sold in shops and supermarkets for the moment.

  • Recyclable soft plastic can be recycled in some kerbside collections at home and is widely collected at supermarkets in the UK for recycling. To find out more about where you can recycle, visit www.recyclenow.com
  • Plastic provides an effective oxygen barrier for coffee, allowing it to stay fresh in pack for longer.
  • Our LDPE packaging is carbon neutral via www.myclimate.org and made of 90% biobased content via ISCC + massbalance (www.iscc-system.org)

    We’re aware of the need to move away from plastics altogether, and that plastics are a finite resource. However, considering the protection we need for our coffee to maintain its freshness, this is the most sustainable solution we have found for now.

    Why not compostable?

    Compostable material is something we’ve extensively looked into for our bags. Although compostable materials have come a long way, composting facilities need to be further developed for us to consider this as a viable packaging option.

  • Compostable material may not be what you think it is. At this current time, “compostable” products most often require industrial composting which isn’t accessible through many UK waste services. Even if you have a home compost (approximately only 3% of UK households do), it may not be a suitable solution for compostable material. In addition many kerbside compostable waste services are not able to recognize compostable packaging from plastics, therefore contaminating the whole compost batch when arriving at recycling facility.
  • That doesn’t mean the search ends here. Compostable material is an avenue we would like to use in the future and we will continue our research.
  • In a nutshell

    The Union mission is to enrich life through a relentless focus on great quality, sustainable sourcing and sharing the culture of delicious coffee. To do that, using the best possible sustainable packaging without compromising the quality of our coffee is essential – not only for us as a company, but for our customers and the planet as well.

    We’ll continue our research and adapt to further advancements in packaging materials and waste processing in the UK when we can do so. We’re not drawing a line here; our work continues.

    Have feedback, knowledge or thoughts on the subject of sustainable packaging? We’d love to hear it! Please get in touch at hello@unionroasted.com.