At Origin Coffee, we understand how important it is to take responsibility for our operations, and work with consumers to make better choices.
Whilst our main aim at Origin is to design out waste completely, some packaging remains unavoidable, and we need to look at innovations to contain and present our coffee without creating demand for polluting plastic contaminants.
Back in 2019 we began offering recycling returns services for our plastic and foil coffee bags, and we are now taking this one step further by launching a brand new range of home compostable packaging in June 2022.
Why use home compostable packaging?
In January 2022, it was concluded that humanity has exceeded the ‘safe’ operating zone for environmental pollutants including plastics, as annual production is increasing at a pace that even outstrips the global capacity for assessment and monitoring.
Plastic pollution is recognised to be an emergent environmental catastrophe. Plastics never truly disappear; plastic only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, until finally these tiny ‘microplastics’ infiltrate food chains and begin to affect living organisms. Additionally, plastics can harbour bacteria that can decimate marine wildlife, and is easily ingested by marine animals, yet the world’s plastic is continuously making its way into our oceans.
Some manufacturers might try to convince you that the recyclability of plastic is its strength; however, their claims are weak. Even the purest clear plastic can only be recycled a few times, and many forms of plastic aren’t recyclable at all.
To protect the planet for future generations, we need to assess our product choices and dramatically reduce the production of plastics. One important step is the transition away from single-use plastic packaging, and support for the manufacture of pioneering solutions that won’t pollute the environment.
What are our new compostable bags made from?
Made of three layers, each of which are compostable and plant-based, our coffee bags have been designed to retain the same level of functionality and food safety provided by traditional plastic films. Our new bags are made from:
- Sustainably sourced FSC certified wood pulp
- FSC certified paper
- Polylactic Acid (PLA) derived from responsibly managed corn and sugar cane plantations
To ensure accountability, our new packaging is TUV home certified and meets EU Composability Standards (EN13432). TUV is the world’s leading certification scheme for compostable materials, and ensures that everything will eventually break down.
But we haven’t stopped there. Everything on the bag, right down to the labels, is plant-based and compostable. Made from sugar cane with fully compostable acrylic-based glue, our labels will break down right alongside the bags. All inks are soy-based, and the paper is also whitened without bleach, using non-toxic oxidation.
What are the best conditions for composting our bags?
Composting requires time, heat, and microorganisms to work. Heat is a big factor, as the hotter the environment, the quicker materials break down.
To be home compostable, a product must decompose within 12 weeks in ideal conditions. ‘Ideal’ often depends on the quality and upkeep of your home compost, but as a guide, here a few time frames depending on the temperature:
- 4°C = 123 months
- 13°C = 48 months
- 25°C = 11 months
- 30°C = 8.5 months
- 50°C = 2.9 months
- 60°C = 16 days
We’re currently running an experiment in our own composters, to see how quickly our bags break down at certain temperatures. We are vigilant when it comes to quality, and strive to ensure we have chosen the best available product. As technologies advance, so too will our packaging.
What if I don’t have a home composter?
We are looking at ways to facilitate home composting even if you don’t have a compost heap of your own. Our customers will be able to return their home compostable bags to our cafes in Cornwall and London. We’re also looking into ways of returning packaging via post and will release details as soon as we can.
Now it isn’t advised that compostable packaging (whether home or industrial) is put in municipal food waste collections. This is because, sadly, our national infrastructure in the UK is not yet ready to receive compostable packaging. We hope that the availability of compostable packaging in the future will lead to new waste processes and ensure that every bag can be easily composted, no matter where you live.