Compostable Coffee Bags For Your Morning Cuppa

  • Post category:Blog
  • Post last modified:March 7, 2024

Have you ever heard of compostable coffee bags? It’s a novel solution to a problem that we take for granted.

As simple as they seem, coffee bags are, in fact, incredibly difficult to recycle.

These bags tend to be multi-layered, using different materials to improve their protection. For example, bags that are made of foil or paper tend to have plastic coatings on the inside to preserve the freshness of the coffee beans or grounds.

Such composite packaging is near-impossible to recycle as the two materials are difficult to separate. Because of this, they tend to end up in landfills instead.

Coffee bags made out of compostable material aims to nip this problem at the bud.

coffee bag
Photo by Los Muertos Crew

What material are coffee bags made of?

Conventional coffee bags are often made from a combination of materials to reap the benefits of each. These include:

  • Foil: Perhaps the most common type of coffee packaging, and for a good reason. Foil provides an excellent barrier against light, oxygen, and moisture, all of which can deteriorate coffee quality.
  • Plastic & Polypropylene: Plastic or polypropylene layers offer a cost-effective yet efficient option for brands. They are particularly useful for products with a shorter shelf life or when combined with other materials.
  • Kraft paper: Kraft paper offers a rustic and organic look. Thus, it is often used for organic or artisanal brands. They are frequently lined with plastic or foil for added protection.
  • Composite or multi-layer: Many coffee bags may use the above three materials to make use of all of their benefits. For example, a bag might have an outer layer of kraft paper for aesthetics, a middle layer of foil for protection, and an inner layer of plastic for added sealing strength.

What are compostable coffee bags?

Simply put, these are coffee bags that can be safely composted into an organic fertilizer. It must be noted that while all compostable products are biodegradable, not every biodegradable product is compostable.

Read: Biodegradable vs compostable product

Biodegradable products include anything made out of a material that can be broken naturally through microbial action. On the other hand, compostable products are specifically made from organic or plant-based materials (e.g., cornstarch, sugarcane fiber, bamboo fiber, etc.) that break down and produce humus, the most nutrient-rich and important part of every soil.

What are compostable coffee bags made out of?

Here are some materials commonly used to make compostable coffee bags:

Kraft paper

Most compostable coffee bags are made out of kraft paper, so-called because it is produced using the kraft process, where wood chips are chemically converted into wood pulp.

Kraft paper
Photo by Lisa Fotios

Unbleached, kraft paper has a brown, natural-looking appearance, making it more appealing to eco-conscious buyers. Additionally, unbleached kraft paper is ideal for packaging coffee beans as it is strong and lightweight, thus not adding any extra weight to your packaged weight and size.

Polylactic acid

Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the most common types of bioplastics on the market. PLA is made out of starches derived from corn, potato, and sugarcane and is valued for its flexibility and long shelf life.

Under controlled environments, PLA can decompose within 90 days, compared to the centuries it will take for petroleum-derived plastic to break down.

Rice paper

Despite the name, rice paper is not actually made from rice but from a plant called Tetrapanax papyrifer, commonly known as the rice paper plant.

Rice paper is typically made by blending the rice paper plant with other plant-based materials (i.e., bamboo, hemp, etc.), producing a natural pulp. This pulp is then stretched, pressed, and rolled into non-fibrous sheets of textured, off-white paper.

In addition to being fully recyclable, rice paper also has high tensile strength and, when layered with additional materials, can provide a strong barrier against the elements.

Advantages and disadvantages of compostable coffee bags

There are many benefits that compostable coffee bags can offer to your business. Still, there are also some limitations that you need to be aware of.


Compostable coffee bags offer a range of advantages for your coffee needs:

  • Credibility: Whereas the terms “biodegradable” and “recyclable” are prone to being used in greenwashing, “compostable” has much stricter criteria.
  • Sustainable: Compostable materials are sourced from abundant crops and other resources. For example, certain species of bamboo used in making rice paper can grow by up to a meter a day and can be harvested annually.
  • Reduced landfill waste: As these coffee bags decompose naturally, they won’t contribute to landfill waste or pollution.
  • Gives back to nature: Compostable materials will return vital nutrients to the soil when they break down, restoring soil fertility and even creating a circular economy system.
  • Enhanced freshness: Compostable coffee bags are designed with advanced barrier properties, ensuring your coffee remains fresh and flavorful.
  • Brand image enhancement: Using compostable coffee bags can help better showcase your brand’s commitment to sustainability and improve your PR with eco-conscious consumers.


Compostable coffee bags still have certain limitations that you need to consider when purchasing them:

  • Weight limitations: While some compostable materials have a high tensile strength, they are typically only recommended for something over 1kg or 2.2 lbs, as there is a high risk of breakage.
  • Seal strength: Compostable materials tend to have weaker seal strength than other materials. Thus, compostable coffee bags are often multi-layered to cover this weakness.
  • Shelf life: While most compostable materials have a long shelf life, they still have a shorter life span than plastics. Under hot and humid conditions, these materials will rapidly lose effectiveness. As such, they are better recommended for those who use up coffee beans or grounds quickly in a short amount of time.
  • Costs: Compostable coffee bags tend to be more expensive than their plastic counterparts.
  • Taste contamination: If coffee beans are allowed to sit in a kraft paper or rice paper bag for over a month, their taste may end up getting contaminated. For darker roasts, it will only take a few weeks for this to happen.

Are there any places that sell coffee in compostable bags?

Major online shopping sites like Alibaba and Amazon offer compostable coffee bags wholesale. These bags can even be printed with your brand’s label!

The best coffee bags for your business

Here are some brands that sell their coffee in compostable bags. See if any of them suits you:

  • MTPak Coffee: MTPak Coffee specializes in producing and providing high-quality, biodegradable, and compostable coffee packaging for all your business needs. Strong, easy to brand, and highly versatile, MTPak’s bags can be made from either kraft paper, PLA, rice paper, or a mixture of these compostable materials.
    MTPak Coffee
  • CarePac: CarePac offers a range of fully customized, pre-printed, biodegradable pouches at affordable prices. Its compostable kraft paper coffee packaging comes with both the best prints and the highest-quality PLA layering for keeping your beans fresh.
  • noissue: noissue coffee bags are crafted with the planet in mind, being 100% recyclable and compostable. Its bags are fully customizable, offering different sizes, seal types, and even logo branding to suit your needs.noissue

Also read: Biodegradable coffee pods


Which coffee bags are plastic-free?

Most coffee bags, even if they’re made from paper or foil, contain a layer of plastic to maintain the longevity and freshness of the coffee beans or grounds.

There are, however, certain brands that offer plastic-free coffee bags. These include Dark Woods, Earthbag for Coffee by the Sirane Group, and MTPak Coffee.

Are coffee bags recyclable?

Whether coffee bags are recyclable depends on the material it is made out of. Untreated Kraft paper, for example, can be recycled with other paper products through your local recycling pick-up. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is also easy to recycle as it is less prone to contamination.

On the other hand, composite packaging is not recyclable as it is difficult to remove the component materials without degrading either one. Foil and plastic coffee bags are virtually impossible to separate; thus, they can’t be recycled very easily.

Where can you recycle coffee bags?

Most local recycling programs avoid accepting coffee bags. This is due to the bags’ multi-layered composition, making separation difficult for most local recycling facilities.

As such, you should avoid throwing your empty coffee bags into curbside bins, lest you jeopardize the recycling stream.

Most local recycling pick-ups will, however, accept Kraft paper coffee bags as long as they are clean and free of any contaminants.

For more advanced materials like Polylactic acid (PLA) and LDPE, there are specialized facilities dedicated to handling these types of products.

Can you compost these coffee bags at home?

It depends on the materials used. Generally, kraft paper and rice paper have a short enough decomposition time that they can be utilized for home composting.

Even then, there are some factors for you to consider:

  • Temperature: Higher temperatures are typically required to kickstart and support the decomposition process.
  • Moisture and humidity: Moisture and humidity levels in the composting mix can also affect the breakdown of compostable materials. Too much moisture, and you’ll create anaerobic conditions, inhibiting the breakdown process. Too little, and you can dry out the composting mix, also slowing down the decomposition process.
  • Location: The location of the composting setup is equally important. For example, composting in a sunny spot can help speed up the decomposition process, while composting in a shaded location may slow it down.
  • Materials: Compostable coffee bags are often multi-layered to improve their effectiveness. While the external material may be home-compostable, the inner lining or valves are usually made out of PLA, which requires specialized facilities to compost.

Are compostable coffee bags totally compostable?

Not exactly. While the bag’s external material may be made out of a compostable material such as kraft paper or rice paper, other parts may be created out of non-compostable materials.

For example, the inside layering and valve may be made out of plastic or polypropylene. At the same time, the bag itself may be sealed with a tin tie. These need to be removed and thrown away in the trash before you can start composting your coffee bag.

While some compostable coffee bags use PLA in place of plastic or polypropylene, this material has a longer decomposition time compared to kraft paper and rice paper. As such, it requires specific conditions that can only be provided by industrial composting facilities.

Concluding remark

Whether you’re a business selling coffee in bulk or just someone who enjoys a morning cuppa, getting your beans in a compostable bag will definitely benefit both you and the environment in the long run.

So don’t be afraid to order some now!

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