Tea and coffee waste to be composted in the Netherlands as gov adopts Green Deal
16 Jan 2023 --- In the Netherlands, all soft coffee pods and tea bags can now be disposed of in the organic bin along with vegetables, fruits and other garden waste, as the Dutch government adopts its Green Deal.
The deal was formulated at the initiative of the sector association Koffie & Thee Nederland in cooperation with the other companies and parties including Unilever, Simon Lévelt, Dutch Waste Management Association and others.
“The sector has worked hard to make coffee pods and tea bags compostable,” says Vivianne Heijnen, state secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management.
“As a result, they can now be placed in the green bin, fully in line with the circular objectives of the Netherlands. We want more and cleaner compost, making recycling as easy as possible for consumers.”
Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate General for Public Works and Water Management) revealed that 93% of tea bags and 97% of all coffee pods were compostable in an independent random check of the supermarkets.
The Green Deal states that in recent years, technological advancements and investments have accelerated the industrial-scale use of compostable materials for all or parts of the functional wrapping around coffee and tea (generally in the form of a coffee pad or tea bag).
“Through the Green Deal approach, the government seeks to make optimum use of the momentum in society for green growth,” the document outlines.
Implementation by stakeholders
The deal stresses that achieving the goal depends on the tea and coffee producers’ coordinated approach throughout the supply chain.
The companies must switch to compostable wrappings for their coffee pads and tea bags, “most importantly,” it states. Coffee capsules and pods are explicitly excluded from the Green Deal.
“Compostable coffee capsules, like many other hard plastics, often do not break down or do not break down sufficiently in Dutch composting installations and therefore remain visible in the end product compost,” Koffie & Thee Nederland details.
Members of the association are working on a plan to collect, sort and recycle all aluminum and plastic coffee capsules in the country via public waste streams.
The EU has also set new regulations on coffee capsules and plastic bags. Companies will be required to use as little packaging as possible, while countries must ensure that 65% of all packaging waste is recycled by the end of 2025.
“Koffie & Thee Nederland, together with its members and partners, has been actively committed to making the coffee sector more sustainable for many years,” says Lisanne Evers, director at Koffie & Thee Nederland.
“This makes us a front-runner in Europe. Our initiative shows that companies are cooperating pre-competitively to make the sector more sustainable.”
Backed by research
Moreover, the deal document cites research by Wageningen University & Research (2020) to illustrate that compostable coffee pads and tea bags degrade well, doing so within the average composting time in the Netherlands (2-4 weeks), and do not have a negative impact on the composting process or compost product quality.
As regards the waste streams of coffee grounds and tea leaves specifically, these are highly desirable as raw materials in organic household waste: they are 100% biodegradable, have a high biogas potential and produce more and cleaner compost, making for a sustainable cycle because the raw materials are reused.
Additionally, Koffie & Thee reports that separating coffee pods and tea bags via organic waste yields about 88 million kgs of extra compost annually.
“Producing tea bags and coffee pads that can go into the organic household waste bin are entirely in line with the objectives of the national program ‘Circular Dutch Economy by 2050’: less non-recyclable waste, more and cleaner compost,” the deal underpins.
“With this Green Deal, the Parties can make compostable tea bags and coffee pads the new norm.”
PackagingInsights recently reported about coffee companies turning to compostable capsules as convenience and sustainability demands heat up.
Shervin Dehmoubed, founder and CEO of EcoPackables revealed he expects to see “a secular shift in the confections and dry-food packaging industry to home-compostable options, with post-consumer recycled content being a stepping stone to that milestone.”
Meanwhile, Innova Market Insights identified “Bioplastic Boosters” as one of the main packaging trends in 2022. Global consumers appear ready to embrace bioplastics, with 41% viewing biodegradability as the most environmentally sustainable end-of-life disposal method for packaging, followed by compostability (20%).
By Radhika Sikaria
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