Yes we CAN!

Yes we CAN!

By Simon Johnston

Yes we can - At the close of 2018 and beginning of 2019 we began our research into new retail coffee packaging. After discovering that our bio-bags were only industrially compostable, we researched many of the offerings on the market and in the end decided that compostable bags were no longer for us. Our supplier who back in 2016 told us we were the first to use the world first ‘bio-bag’ didn’t give us the small print to tell us that the same bags could only be composted in an industrial composting facility. At the time, Northern Ireland didn’t even have one, and they are still few and far between. Ultimately, we realised that a kind of ‘greenwashing’ seemed pervasive within our industry. Products advertised - and marketed at this growing specialty coffee industry with a bent towards environmentally friendly business - weren’t quite what they appeared; truthful, but only to a point.

We were on the hunt for something that would maintain freshness, have a low environmental impact, and look aesthetically appealing. After speaking at length with waste managers, material consultants, packaging experts we began to under that we’re around two to three years away from domestically compostable mono-materials. This means that valves, seals and often the bags themselves, wouldn’t break down under domestic compost conditions. Cardboard wouldn’t work for us since according to waste experts, it is heavy to transport and therefore energy intensive. Plastic, even if recyclable, didn’t fill us with glee either. So, it was usually back to the drawing board.

In the end, we opted for beer cans. On balance they were the most environmentally friendly solution available. We love the infinite recyclability and that recycling can now be done easily in most countries. Flushing them with nitrogen also meant that we were able to reduce the oxygen levels from around 8% found in most valved bags, to lower than 0.5%. This prevents the dreaded oxidation of the lipids in the coffee and locks the flavour and freshness in for 3 months. We now use 'Best Before’ dates which, if you work backwards will obviously tell you the roast date.

Once we had sourced a suitable 360 degree ring pull, we designed up our recyclable plastic caps to be as small as possible, and were able to be the first to use a just launched corn starch shrink sleeve which composts and requires much less energy to fit to the can than traditional plastic sleeves. Ultimately, beer cans ended up ticking all our boxes and we hope you like them as much as we do.