​Sustainable coffee: inside and out

Australian Institute of Packaging

By Nerida Kelton MAIP, Executive Director – Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP); Vice President – Save Food Packaging & Food Waste – World Packaging Organisation (WPO)
Monday, 18 October, 2021


​Sustainable coffee: inside and out

Australians love coffee; whether sipping it in a cafe, watching a friend proudly make you a latte on their ‘new’ machine or ordering coffee pods to make your favourite blends at home.

Buying behaviours have also changed and consumers expect more from their coffee. Coffee must be sustainable inside and out, starting with the way it is grown, sourced, staffed, manufactured and, more recently, how it is packaged.

Coffee packaging needs to have all the necessary functional barrier properties to maintain optimal freshness and shelf life, be airtight, protect from sunlight, be durable; all the while offering the lowest environmental impact.

Three innovative coffee packaging designs that stood out at the 2021 Australasian Packaging Innovation & Design (PIDA) awards that tick all the boxes are SIPP Instant, Melbourne Coffee and PodPress Capsule System.

SIPP Instant

SIPP Instant has created a different product to the traditional instant coffee category. The organic and Fairtrade product contains heat-resistant probiotics, complex healthy carbohydrates for slow energy release and freeze-dried Columbian coffee.

The company’s new packaging was designed to elevate the functionality of the brand and features an ABA certified home-compostable internal film. The principal cellulose material is a renewable raw material from eucalyptus trees in South America. The cardboard exterior packaging is made of 100% recycled cardboard and non-toxic inks. The cardboard box features a window to show the product and the compostable film inside, to appeal to the customer’s curiosity. Each panel of the box has a purpose: instructions/process of making the product; health benefits and ingredients; and messaging around its sustainable practices.

SIPP Instant wanted the packaging design for its new-concept product to be easy to understand with a colour palette that is eye-catching and contrasts with the dark colour palette traditionally used for instant coffee.

SIPP Instant was recently awarded Gold in the PIDA Awards — Beverage Design of the Year category.

Melbourne Coffee (Cyclpac)

The Melbourne Coffee concept evolved from a desire to challenge the space of flexible packaging and create a mono structure material for coffee. The company created a recyclable, sustainable solution for coffee that could replace the traditional ‘mixed’ laminate packaging materials.

The packaging is 90% LDPE, has a technical barrier to gas and vapour, a mono structure lamination, BOPE, 7 Layer high barrier coextrusion with EVOH, reverse or surface printed. Developing the sealant layer to hold the release valve internally was essential to the development and required some variant testing. When producing a 90% PE mono structure, the resistance to heat offered by the BOPE was critical to product performance and success.

The material (Mono structure PE with barrier to Vapour and Oxygen) is recyclable and complies with the Australasian Recycling Labelling Program in ANZ and the sister-program called OPRL in the United Kingdom.

The Melbourne Coffee packaging is designed to encourage consumers to ‘Make a Difference’ and to ‘Recycle Me’. To Melbourne Coffee, the packaging is as important as the coffee.

Melbourne Coffee (Cyclpac) was recently awarded Gold in the PIDA Awards — Sustainable Packaging Design of the Year — Recycle category.

PodPress Capsule System (REFLO)

The lightweight, compact PodPress Capsule System has been designed as a sustainable alternative for those who drink their coffee from in-home machines that use pods. With sealed packaging of ground coffee in the form of completely re-usable capsules and 100% recyclable foil seals, the system allows users to refill any number of capsules and coffee types, install a new cover and store capsules for future use.

The aluminium foil closure is 100% recyclable and if balled up to sufficient size — approximately 30 mm diameter — can be captured by recycling streams. The PP capsule bodies that carry the ground coffee are easily cleaned and reusable. If desired, the capsules can be packed together, and in packs of nine can be easily captured in the recycling systems of cities, once again diverting them from the waste stream and landfill.

The used coffee grounds are readily removed from the capsules, and can be used for garden composting, or simply spread on the topsoil, providing an inert protective layer for home garden plants. The system itself can be produced using recycled material to complete its participation in the circular economy. The Podpress reusable and resealable coffee capsule system is designed to capture all the plastic packaging for capsule-based coffee usage and divert it from landfill.

Given that Australians use more than 3 million coffee capsules per day, uptake of the Podpress system by even a small proportion of capsule users could make a significant reduction to the number of spent capsules ending in landfill.

PodPress Capsule System (REFLO) was recently awarded a silver in the PIDA Awards — Sustainable Packaging Design of the Year — Reuse category and a bronze in the Beverage category.

Coffee is not only one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world, but it is also a favourite pastime for many people. Next time you are buying your coffee look out for brands that are making a sustainable difference inside and out.

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/sonyachny

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