In some ways, coffee pods are an excellent example of one of modern life’s double-edged swords. On the one hand, they provide a convenient, no-mess, hassle-free cup of coffee of consistent strength and temperature; on the other, they are seen by many consumers as a non-sustainable packaging form that contribute significantly to the packaging waste issue.
Compostable pods, says PLA producer NatureWorks, can offer a solution. They create the opportunity not only to address consumer concerns and divert the packaging away from landfills, but, also to recover the used coffee grounds, enabling their processing at a compost facility where they deliver valuable nutrients to the final compost.
Coffee pods, however, are deceptively simple looking. Creating a capsule that functions as it should requires both insight into materials and a knowledge of coffee and the dynamics of coffee-making. The capsule body, lidding, and filter must be precisely designed to deliver a consistent, high-quality brewing experience. Before the capsules even reach consumers, it’s critical that these components perform well during assembly and filling as well as on the shelf and during brewing.
For this reason, NatureWorks has now entered into a multi-year strategic partnership with IMA Coffee, a global market leader in coffee handling, processing, and packaging to develop and accelerate the market for high-performing K-Cup compatible compostable single-serve coffee pods in North America. The partnership brings together NatureWorks’ materials and applications knowledge with IMA’s machinery expertise
“At NatureWorks, we’ve seen tremendous interest in compostable single-serve pods,” said Flavio Di Marcotullio, Global Industry Manager for NatureWorks. “Brandowners and roasters are responding to both consumer demands for more sustainable packaging and to circular economy directives that specify compostable packaging as a key enabler of recovering food waste for compost. To continue supporting this growth, we saw the opportunity to partner with IMA as they have long helped the single-serve coffee market implement innovative new packaging technologies and have a long-term commitment towards sustainable solutions.”
Among other things, in 2019 IMA launched the IMA NoP – No Plastic Program, to promote eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on IMA machines. The company has also established the Open Lab: a network of technological laboratories and testing areas dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies, and production optimisation processes, ‘where material technologists study, develop, and test compostable and recyclable materials to be used on our packaging equipment’, said Nicola Panzani, IMA Coffee Sales Manager and IMA Coffee Petroncini CEO.