In 2018, Flo SpA, a major European food packaging producer, introduced Gea, a compostable coffee capsule designed to be compatible with A Modo Mio brewing systems.
The capsule was the result of a two-year joint development process in partnership with NatureWorks to create a product with the requisite material ageing stability and oxygen barrier, as well as being able to be industrially composted at the end of life.
Since the initial introduction, different versions have been developed to be compatible with other brewing systems as well.
Gea is entirely composed of Ingeo PLA, a renewably sourced polymer that is certified for industrial composting systems according to global standards such as EN-13432 (EU) and ASTM D6400-04 (USA).
To establish the compostability of the GEA coffee capsules themselves, NatureWorks, Flo, and the Italian Composting and Biogas Association undertook to conduct a composting field trial with the capsules in an industrial composting facility over an 83-day time period.
The Composting and Biogas Association selected a composting facility treating the garden waste, plant tissue waste, waste bark and cork, and wood packaging.
The capsules were put into six specially designed vented testing bags used for monitoring the disintegration process - three containing unused coffee capsules and three containing used (brewed) coffee capsules.
The bags were filled with a mixture of 2/3 shredded green-waste and 1/3 compost, adding up to 1% by weight of the biopolymer to be tested. The capsules underwent 20 days of active composting where the bags were buried inside a static, aerated compost windrow, operated at 65°C (149°F) for 10 days and then at 60°C (140°F) for another 10 days.
Moisture levels were maintained at 46%. These bags then cured for 65-70 days in windrows maintained between 50-55°C (122-131°F).
After a total of 83 days, all bags were removed, emptied, and the contents were manually sorted to detect visible, non-degraded coffee capsules.
The final results revealed that both the unused and brewed capsules showed a disintegration rate between 98 - 100%, which is fully compliant with the EU standard EN13432 for compostable biopolymers.
The new capsule technology platform is fully approved for food contact.