By 2030, Swedish based coffee group Löfbergs strives to be 100 per cent circular, which includes only using packaging that is recyclable and made from renewable or recycled materials. Hence, Löfbergs worked intensively with different partners to find and develop sustainable alternatives. In one of its most recent projects, Löfbergs has reached “revolutionary results” – successful pilot tests of what could be the world’s first high barrier soft plastic PE mono-material prototype for coffee.
“[This is] an important milestone representing a worldwide opportunity to close the loop as it enables used coffee packages to be sorted, recycled, and regranulated with the possibilities to be reprocessed into new products. This means that coffee packages waste can be used as a resource,” says Madelene Breiling, Supply Chain Development Manager at Löfbergs.
Up to now, most multilayer flexible plastic laminates and pouches on the market have not been suitable for collection, sorting, or recycling. The challenge for the coffee industry particularly has been to find a thin solution in a mono polyethylene polymer, that is suitable to run on a high-speed machine, that has the barrier properties to protect the products and retain a long shelf life – so aromas and freshness of coffee remains, and that also can be widely sorted, collected, and recycled on all markets.
“We have been working on this ground-breaking innovation for a long time, together with a material and machine supplier. Now we have developed a prototype with fully recyclable mono-PE material that is designed for the circular economy. The prototype has passed all the rigorous quality tests so far and as the first small batch is approved, we plan to scale up tests to work on different material properties and fine tuning of specifications, so that the new packages can hit the shelves later this year,” says Breiling.
Löfbergs says the new packaging is likely the first in the world to be entirely eco-designed. Made only from polyethylene, a fully recyclable material, it contains no aluminium. Once sorted and collected, which will be possible everywhere where waste management and recycling systems are in place, it can be recycled and reused. The recycled polymers can become granulates again to be used for new products. The roaster’s next step is to run longer test runs and to continue to work on fine tuning machines and material properties.
“When everything runs smoothly the next step is to also make this mono-materials derive from renewable source. We already see potential to increase the renewable share in these recyclable packages. The same transition that we have done on a majority of the packages we use, which has allowed us to reduce the overall carbon footprint for our packaging,” says Breiling.