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Compostable plastic used in coffee capsules and packaging

Compostable plastic used in coffee capsules and packaging, BASF, ecovio, Swiss Coffee Company, packaging
The compostable plastic ‘ecovio’ from BASF has found its first production application in a system solution for coffee packaging.

Working together with the new Switzerland-based Swiss Coffee Company, BASF has developed a compostable system that consists of a coffee capsule and an aroma-tight outer packaging. The material is being used in combination with an ecovio-based multi-layer system with specific barrier properties, and fulfils the demanding requirements for protecting the product and brewing coffee in high-pressure coffee machines, while still being compostable.

Launched by BASF in 2007, ecovio is biodegradable and compostable as defined by EN 13432, based to a large extent on renewable resources. To date, the primary fields of application have been bags for collecting biodegradable waste and mulch film, which helps to cultivate fruit and vegetables in fields.

With the new product grade ecovio IS1335, which is especially suitable for injection molding, and with new ecovio-based solutions for multi-layer film with barrier properties, BASF has expanded the product line further.

These product variants helped Swiss Coffee Company develop a high-volume product that can contribute to sustainability in many ways while simultaneously addressing the latest trend in coffee drinking.

Swiss Coffee Company and the product beanarella

Since the end of 2012, the Swiss Coffee Company has been offering coffee in compostable plastic capsules in an aroma-type barrier packaging together with coffee machines in Switzerland under the brand name beanarella.

Compostable plastic used in coffee capsules and packaging, BASF, ecovio, Swiss Coffee Company, packaging

The idea for the product came to the company's founders in 2011, and after a record project completion time of only some 13 months, high-grade coffee packaged in injection molded biodegradable plastic capsules was on the market. 

The goal of the company is to market high-quality coffee that simultaneously satisfies demanding criteria from the social and environmental standpoint when it comes to production. The packaging was expected to satisfy similar criteria.

Disposing intelligently of everything that remains after drinking the coffee was an especially important aspect in terms of packaging. In the case of food packaging with a high percentage of organic content, compostable plastics such as ecovio from BASF represent a possible solution. In this way, sustainability concepts could be applied not only to producing the coffee, but also to the packaging and disposal.

Compostable coffee packaging and capsules

The barrier packaging of the outer pack consists of biodegradable Components. The structure comprises three functional layers: the outer paper-based carrier layer is followed by a thin barrier film as a middle layer and an inner sealing layer based on ecovio. All three single layers are certified according to EN 13432. The layers are bonded together by means of the compostable laminating adhesive Epotal Eco from BASF. The packaging is designed to satisfy the demanding barrier requirements for coffee packaging with regard to moisture, oxygen and aroma.

Compostable plastic used in coffee capsules and packaging, BASF, ecovio, Swiss Coffee Company, packagingAccording to BASF, in-house investigations conducted at BASF confirmed degradation of the used coffee capsules in an actual composting environment. 

The compostable capsules work very well with the coffee product. Packaging such as coffee capsules that contain small portions of completely organic waste and where the organic waste cannot be collected separately from the packaging material lends itself ideally to composting as the correct means of disposal instead of incineration or recycling. Moreover, coffee is a favourite among composters, since it represents a good material for loosening the structure of the compost.

Swiss Coffee Company is initially marketing its coffee in Switzerland through two channels: the company Leomat AG, the largest provider of office furnishings in eastern Switzerland, supplies the complete beanarella system to its customers and also collects the waste. Private customers will soon be able to order over the Internet and have the product shipped to them.

During the pilot phase, the Swiss Coffee Company itself will handle composting under industrial conditions in Switzerland: Leomat will supply the coffee capsules to be disposed of together with the outer barrier packaging for the composting process.


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