The Quest for Sustainable Packaging
Updated: May 11, 2021
Photo credit: Shutterstock In 2020, Kaapittiaq committed to reducing the environmental footprint of its company. Decreasing the amount of plastics used in our packaging was a specific priority for us. The Canadian Arctic is the unfortunate recipient of much of the world's ocean-based plastics, which wreak a host of issues on both terrestrial and marine environments. We do not want Kaapittiaq being part of this detrimental process.
Over the last year, we have been researching options for minimizing our use of plastics and using this information to design our own, more environmentally sustainable bags. Our first attempt is made from 70% compostable and 30% recyclable materials. While our target is to have our bags be 100% compostable ( meaning packaging that is 100% organic matter that breaks down to produce soil), it is a goal that we will continue to work towards.
While multiple compostable and biodegradable packages already exist on the market, their ability to fully decompose can vary. Many of the leading plant-based packaging companies have reached a point of 60-70% compostability. They often use plant-based and renewable materials to replace the use of plastics for critical components such as bag lining (which functions as a moisture barrier for the coffee), opening zippers and de-gassing valves. The technology for plant-based substitutes for these typically plastic-based components is still in its early stages, with the shelf-life and material flexibility of many products still not equaling their plastic counterparts. This is a real concern when one operates from an Arctic environment, whose temperatures, shipping, and storage conditions often provide every stress test imaginable for product packaging. Another obstacle to transitioning towards compostable packaging is the price, with many of the existing compostable coffee bags on the market ranging from $1.50-$2.25/ bag; a cost that is not sustainable for a start-up business such as our own. By direct sourcing the materials and manufacture of our own bags, we have been able to reduce this cost closer to $0.25/bag. This comes with its own environmental issues associated with pan-global sourcing and shipping, which we are increases the carbon footprint of each bag.
Many compostable bag manufacturers are quick to point out that a more compostable version of their product is already well into development, and that the costs of compostability performance are rapidly decreasing.
Based on our research, we have manufactured our first bags to target plastic reduction. The outer layers of the bag are created from waxed craft paper made from 100% plant-based materials. We've used a recyclable PET material to form the bag's lining and vapour barrier, as well as de-gassing valves and zipper. While not an ideal solution for the Arctic environment, where recycling services are not often available, we have heavily reduced plastic use while creating a bag that can reliably uphold the freshness and high quality of our coffee.
We are currently researching new, plant-based materials to replace these plastics in the next version of our packages. We are always on the lookout for new research and product partners to help us create an affordable and environmentally low-impact bag, and welcome collaboration.
If you have ideas or are in a position to help with our mission, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.