Compostable Bags - Why or Why Not

Madcowsaymoo

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Apr 14, 2021
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Hey fellas.
First, thanks for contributing to the forum. It's been a huge learning tool for me!
Next, why or why not use compostable Bags for packaging roasted coffee? Aside from looking less cool than plastic bags, I can't rationalize not using compostable bags. I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.
Am I just being a nerd?

(Edit: to clarify bags)
 
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PinkRose

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Feb 28, 2008
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Near Philadelphia, PA
Hey fellas.
First, thanks for contributing to the forum. It's been a huge learning tool for me!
Next, why or why not use compostable Bags? Aside from looking less cool than plastic bags, I can't rationalize not using compostable bags. I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.
Am I just being a nerd?

Compostable bags for what purpose? Trash bags? Take-out bags?

It would be helpful if you could clarify what you're asking.
 
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Madcowsaymoo

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I have clarified the post: it's for packaging roasted coffee to sell to customers.
 

Mr.Peaberry

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Aug 7, 2013
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The only reason to use compostable bags is to promote the idea that one gives a crap about sustainability. The reality is that much goes into the production and distribution of coffee, but not much thought is given to what marginal difference packaging plays in the overall scheme. For instance, as a comparison, the manufacture and distribution of hair products sold in plastic containers. The container must be manufactured and then transported to the company that will label and fill the containers. The palletized cases of finished product are then transported to regional distribution centers, and then sent to warehouse distribution centers for large chains or small mom and pop stores. The carbon footprint is enormous for this type of packaging on a product everyone uses daily. A better alternative is for consumers to purchase bulk quantities in containers that can be reused or recycled easily, and refill point of use containers at home as needed. In coffee packaging these gusseted bags lay flat so that a shit ton of them can fit in a truck versus blow molded plastic containers. One can use rubber stamps to decorate the bags versus paper or vinyl label. And the gusseted bags can be kraft paper with a glassine type liner. These bags can be sent to compost just like anything else, and the liner which will not degrade is easily screened out of the product compost. This takes up minimal landfill. The same discussion was had about cloth diapers and disposable diapers. Cloth diapers with water use, required water treatment, etc., has a much bigger carbon footprint than if disposable diapers were sent to compost. The plastic outer shell would be screened out and discarded, but is minimal in comparison to the effects of water consumption and treatment for cloth diapers. Compostable coffee bags are a shallow claim for environmental concern for those that dig a little deeper, but are wonderful for marketing fodder.
 
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Madcowsaymoo

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Mr. Peaberry, that is very insightful, thank you.
If I can ask, what kind of packaging do you use? I've been leaning towards the Kraft bags with removable liners cause they're so damn cheap.
 

Musicphan

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May 11, 2014
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You will find one of the challenges even with most compostable packaging, it's not compostable to 'most people'. Often they have to be recycled at special locations. The reality is they have little to no increase in 'conservation' value.
 

Mr.Peaberry

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Aug 7, 2013
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Mr. Peaberry, that is very insightful, thank you.
If I can ask, what kind of packaging do you use? I've been leaning towards the Kraft bags with removable liners cause they're so damn cheap.

I am a coffee geek, and a home roaster, but not a commercial roaster...yet, lol. I know more than I should about a lot of things, and I took sustainability courses at Santa Monica College taught by all sorts of leaders of the zero waste movement in California....so I just felt that I should respond. I would use whatever you feel speaks to your audience about "doing right" by the environment. There is a type of plastic...well not so new anymore...which can be made from corn, and sold early on as being biodegradable. PLA, or poly lactic acid is actually not biodegradable at composting temperatures, and needs to be held at a very high heat for a long initial period to cause complete degradation over time otherwise it will, at best, break apart into very small flakes. There are other issues with PLA including health issues from leaching that are now becoming more common, from what I've just seen with a cursory search. But perhaps the biggest problem was a very enthusiastic response from early adopters of all things environmental. The material is actually a pollutant if mixed in with PET (water bottle plastic) for recycling, and can literally degrade the quality of the recycled PET to the point that recycled PET, thought to be a good thing, would not be an option for many packaging operations. And yet so many restaurants were gung ho on using it as a marketing tool to persuade their customers that they were a sustainability savvy business. I called a local restaurant that used PLA in this way to give them some factual information about PLA, but they weren't interested. They were just interested in playing to the consumers misguided belief about PLA.

As far as what you are using, sure, the removable liner is a sellable gimmick, but truthfully, if you are looking to provide the best coffee possible, and are unable to provide a reusable container (in my opinion the only option that truly makes an impact by reducing the use of single use bags) then the choice of which single use bag is best is just banter in my humble opinion.
 

samutera

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May 3, 2021
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If i were you i would stick with the more eco-friendly options possible, since in 2021 customers like the idea of contributing to the environment.
 
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