Recyclable packaging – it's a buzzword that carries immense potential for environmental sustainability. Yet, we’ve learnt the journey to achieving genuinely recyclable packaging is often far more complex and frustrating than it initially seems. At Roast & Ground we embarked on a mission to create packaging that not only preserves the quality and freshness of our coffee but also ensures that customers have a clear path to recycling it. Sounds easy? We thought so, however…
The Two-fold Challenge was clear:
1. Product Protection: Our packaging had to meet the highest standards in protecting the quality and freshness of the coffee within. There's no point in having recyclable packaging if it compromises the very essence of what's inside.
2. Clear Customer Guidance: Equally firm was our commitment to guide our customers on how to responsibly recycle the packaging. After all, recyclable packaging is only effective if our customers know how and where to recycle it.
Perhaps naively we felt this challenge couldn’t been too difficult to achieve. We assumed the packaging innovation was the greatest hurdle and once cracked the communication would flow. But we have come out of the exercise with a far greater understanding of the complexities of how to recycle recyclable packaging and a realisation that, for now, we have to compromise when it comes to the clarity of our communication.
Our journey has taken us down an interesting path, when it comes to coffee packaging. Our Roast & Ground, ground coffee for filters and bulk brewers, which doesn't require a valve, is now packaged in PP5 (Polypropylene), a material that's generally easier to recycle. However, whole coffee beans, which need a valve for freshness preservation, are still packaged in LDPE4 (Low-Density Polyethylene). This material presents a greater recycling challenge, in part, we discovered, because not all LDPE4 is created equal, or at least not in recycling terms.
Let's delve deeper into our packaging conundrum:
The PP5 Advantage: Recyclability
PP5 has become our go-to choice for packaging ground coffee. It's known for its recyclability and environmental friendliness, making it an excellent option for products where a valve isn't necessary. The straightforward recycling process for PP5 aligns with our commitment to sustainability and offers our customers an easier way to dispose of their packaging responsibly. However, while PP5 excels in recyclability, it has its limitations when it comes to its suitability for certain products.
LDPE4 and the Valve Requirement
For whole coffee beans, the story is different. These beans require a valve to release gases while maintaining freshness. LDPE4, which includes both hard and flexible plastic varieties, has traditionally been the recyclable material of choice for whole coffee beans requiring coffee valves. The challenge here is that LDPE4's recyclability can be confusing and inconsistent.
The recycling of LDPE4 can vary based on whether it's the rigid or soft/flexible form. In some cases, the rigid version may be accepted by local councils, but the soft/flexible LDPE4 often needs to be recycled with plastic bags, typically through supermarket or specialist solutions.
So what about the clear customer guidance?
So for now we’ve had to compromise. We had hoped to say here is our Roast & Ground recyclable packaging and here’s what you do with it. But currently that isn’t an option. Rather we have provided the information our customers need to be able to establish what to do in their local area or in agreement with their business waste collector.
Given the variability in recycling practices, currently it seems the only way is to check for specific guidelines on recycling LDPE4, in its flexible form and indeed PP5. It's the best way to ensure your recyclables find the right destination.
We acknowledge that this complexity can be frustrating for both us and our customers. Our aim was to simplify the recycling process and provide clear instructions, but the reality is that the recycling landscape in the UK is somewhat multifaceted.
It's no wonder that people struggle to navigate it. To aid you on your recycling journey, we've discovered a valuable resource: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/shopping-sustainably/article/how-to-recycle-in-the-uk
This guide offers practical insights into recycling in the UK and can be a helpful companion as you strive to make more sustainable choices.
The Way Forward - A Collective Responsibility
In conclusion, we appreciate the path to recyclable packaging is not a straightforward one. Manufacturers, suppliers, consumers, and local authorities all play crucial roles in simplifying this process. Together, we can work towards a recycling system that is not only sustainable but also easy to understand and follow. It's a shared responsibility that will lead us toward a greener and more environmentally-conscious future.
Join us in the journey towards a world where recyclable packaging is not just a buzzword but a practical reality that benefits us all and our precious planet.
Together, we'll navigate the packaging puzzle, striving for a future where quality and sustainability seamlessly coexist.