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 3-5% 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 have been fully recyclable for many years, and now we have started implementing more sustainable, fully recyclable materials for our coffee bags.

Our next step was to re-evaluate the packaging for our coffee bags. After 18 months of careful research and testing, we have started using a fully recyclable LDPE monoplastic for our grocery bags. We're not fans of waste, so we've been using up the last of our original packaging before launching our recyclable packaging. Our 200g monoplastic grocery bags will be landing in larger stores and supermarkets starting at the end of March so you can expect to see them trickling through in April. 500g, 700g and 1kg bags to follow throughout the year. Keep an eye out for the green recyclable logo!

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 and limitations in UK waste facilities
  • Different types of material (paper, plastic, aluminium) have different oxygen permeability, which means some materials keep coffee fresher for a longer time than others. For example: plastic has a higher oxygen barrier than paper
  • Our current packaging uses a plastic layer laminated with aluminium, providing a great oxygen barrier that helps keep the coffee fresh
  • In most councils composite packaging/mixed materials cannot be recycled. This means our current packaging goes to landfill or is incinerated
  • We conducted a lot of research to find a packaging: (1) that keeps your coffee fresh (2) is easy for you to dispose of (3) is recyclable
  • Why recyclable plastic for grocery bags?

    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.

  • 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 CO2 neutral via www.myclimate.org
  • It’s made of 60% biobased (made of wood waste from paper manufacturing and used cooking oil instead of fossil feedstocks) and 30% recycled content via ISCC + massbalance (www.iscc-system.org). What does this mean? Simply – as coffee is a food product, we are not allowed to use recycled material for our packaging due to UK regulations. That is not good enough for us! Via Massbalance, we pay a premium which means other companies can use recycled content (which is more expensive), at a lower cost – meaning more recycled material and less environmental impact.
  • Considering the protection we need for our coffee to maintain its freshness, and the recycling facilities now available in the UK, this biobased and recyclable plastic 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 recognise 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.
  • Why paper?

    We researched, and are now trialling, fully recyclable paper bags for coffee ordered via our website. You can expect to see this by the end of 2022. 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).
  • 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.