My role as a mythbuster: Packaging is not a necessary evil but a necessary good guy
I have had a chance to enjoy the smell of freshly-roasted coffee at my new workplace at Paulig for a few months now. During my introductory training, I have noticed how sustainability comes up in every function at Paulig. I can see that this is not just empty words here, as it is a part of many daily activities. This has got me thinking more about my own work and about a truly sustainable coffee package.
In general, coffee lovers would like to see as little packaging material as possible. Could the packaging laminate of coffee be made even thinner? At Paulig over the past five years we have been able to reduce the amount of packaging material by almost 10% per packaged kilo. Thin materials are being further developed, taking into account the risks of breakage during transportation and storage.
What is the environmental impact of a coffee package?
A coffee package’s carbon footprint only makes up about three per cent of the carbon footprint of the production and preparation chain of filter coffee. If the packaging breaks it is not just the package that goes to waste but the entire coffee chain: nine months of cultivation, the processing, transportation overseas, roasting and packaging. We have lost the precious raw materials and the enjoyment of the wonderful flavours!
Carbon footprint from Costa Rican coffee (Killian et al., Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology 2012)
However, the only visible, concrete thing that consumers are left with after the product has been consumed is the packaging. And many consumers are not sure what to do with empty packages. Over the past year, over 500 recycling stations for plastic packaging have been established in Finland and these stations accept all Paulig coffee packages. This makes an empty package not just waste but –depending on the structure– a valuable raw material for new plastic products or energy for district heating and electricity. If you do not live near a recycling station you can put our coffee packages to mixed waste. You can do this with a good conscience as mixed waste collected from consumers is used as a source of energy.
So, plastic is very versatile! First it functions as packaging and then it can be made into another product or used as a source of energy. Using the same raw material twice is a smart thing to do and luckily this is now possible with packaging!
Open-ended questions inspire development
What share of Paulig Juhla Mokka’s environmental impact is made up by its packaging? Can laminates be made even thinner or will this affect the durability of the packaging? How can we further reduce the number of broken packages to ensure that the precious contents are protected? What are the differences between packaging materials and solutions from the perspective of environmental impacts? I will provide the answers in my blog as we come up with them.
Senior Manager, Strategic Packaging Development
Coffee Division of Paulig Group