The year that the coffee industry tackled sustainable packaging

14 January 2020

Karen Yates-Hills, Commercial Director, Lincoln & York

The FMCG sector is adapting to meet consumer demands for more ethical and sustainable products – something which is aided by continual innovation, evolution and increased awareness.

Reflecting consumer demand, the UK government’s 25-year environmental plan established an umbrella framework, with targets of eliminating avoidable waste and plastic. As a result, the new regulations will prioritise the sustainable packaging agenda across numerous industries. Similarly, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to transform the world.  

As one of the UK’s leading coffee roasters, Lincoln & York wants to actively lead sustainability in the coffee industry. Following on from a strong financial year, we are investing in new technologies and offering products that go above and beyond both legal and consumer expectations. In line with our ambitious CSR plans, we are committed to boosting sustainability and exploring environmentally friendly solutions which exceed UK government deadlines.

In particular, the fulfilment of SDG 12 – to ensure sustainable consumption and reuse of all products - a key area to address, with immediate effect, is packaging. Recyclable packaging, especially when it comes to plastics, is something all manufacturers should be addressing as soon as possible.

Finding a solution that suits the environment doesn’t always suit business. However, moving forward collectively, these solutions will become more viable due to technological advancements. With the growth in prominence of ethical consumers, and costly sanctions for businesses that do not meet the regulatory deadlines, businesses must move now to not fall behind.

Here is how we’re addressing the challenge of plastic’s legacy.

Plastic in packaging 101: practical plastic

Plastic has resolved a lot of inconveniences for brands and manufacturers. Its transparency reveals the colours, textures and appealing elements of the products, which predominantly help them to sell. It’s flexible, adaptable and durable, however we have developed an overreliance on plastic.

Consider shrink wrap, squeezable bottles or plastic bags - they all serve their purpose well by protecting and enhancing the taste and freshness of food. Not to mention the resistance to chemicals and oils - plastics are ideal for all kinds of packaging solutions.

Problematic plastic

Alongside the practicality of plastic come the more problematic issues. There is now a global awareness of how plastic is damaging our environment.

When you stop and think about the amount of plastic in your home alone, you may begin to appreciate the problems we face. From food containers and coat hangers to toys and wire coverings; it is everywhere.

Recyclable plastic

Here at Lincoln & York, our corporate social responsibility strategy commits us to making all of our packaging recyclable by 2024. To do this, we looked at various options for our packaging, including compostable versus recycling. Initially exploring compostable packing, we identified a lack of consumer and customer understanding in where this could be composted and what “industrially compostable” means. The Global Web Index report* also identified 64% of consumers felt recyclable packaging was important to them (versus 39% for compostable)

This led us to explore recyclable packaging, and in particular low-density polyethylene (LDPE) further. LDPE plastics can be upcycled into numerous new types of products and is a key factor as to why we have chosen it for our packaging moving forward.  LDPE can also be recycled with other plastics at kerbside in most facilities.

Coffee industry adapting to change

Reductions of plastic consumption has seen encouraging progress across the coffee community. Initiatives have focused upon reducing the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away each year in the UK with most major high-street chains now offering re-usable cup discounts and several smaller chains have outright banned single-use cups.

Although our packaging currently has a 9-month shelf life, we are still undertaking on-going product testing looking to extend this. Having said that, we are most excited and encouraged to know we’re moving forward with better, more sustainable packaging and hopefully inspiring others to follow.



About Lincoln & York:

Lincoln & York is the UK’s leading private label coffee sourcing, roasting and packing specialist whose white-labelled coffee is sold to 300 customers across UK & Europe. Lincoln & York is on a mission to help Britain drink better coffee, and not just at the premium end of the market.

Since 1994, Lincoln & York has been working behind the scenes to deliver bespoke products to customers in the UK and EU. Lincoln & York is a fast growing and ambitious company, winning the Sunday Times International Track 200 in 2018, with the aim to ultimately become the private label coffee roaster of choice for the UK and EU.

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