In recent years, kraft paper coffee packaging has grown to become one of the most popular choices for roasters. Affordable, versatile, and widely accessible, it not only preserves the coffee’s freshness, but it is also recyclable and compostable, breaking down in as little as 90 days when left untreated.
However, if the wood used to make the paper hasn’t been responsibly sourced, it can undermine its environmental benefits. Deforestation is continuing to take place at an alarming rate, with more than 420 million hectares of forest lost since 1990 according to recent statistics.
The Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC) was founded in 1993 to help promote responsible management of the world’s forests and ensure paper products, such as kraft paper coffee bags, maintain their environmental benefits.
Serving as a market-based certification programme, it gives both businesses and consumers confidence in their purchasing decisions by acting as a recognised stamp of approval on products derived responsible sources.
What is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?
Deforestation has been an intense and complex issue for decades. Defined as the uncontrolled removal of trees for human benefit, it has widespread consequences for the planet.
One of the biggest implications is the impact it has on climate change and biodiversity. Trees are vital for absorbing carbon emissions, a key driver of climate change, and sustaining plants and animals that live in the forests.
Therefore, when trees are stripped away en masse, it can uproot fragile ecosystems by killing or displacing endangered native fauna and flora. This can lead to rising temperatures and alter global water cycles.
To tackle this, the UN held an Environment and Development or Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. It was attended by representatives from 179 countries, who gathered to discuss humanity’s socio-economic activities and their environmental impact.
One of its goals was to create a blueprint “integrating and balancing economic, social and environmental dimensions”. This would have an impact on how humanity produces, consumes, lives, and works.
As a response, a group of businesses, environmentalists and leaders founded an organisation to govern the world’s forests. It was called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
From the beginning, the mission of the FSC has been to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable forest management through sustainable use, conservation, and restoration.
Today, it sets global standards outlining responsible forest management through voluntary programs.
It’s supported by international organisations such as the World Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace. The FSC maintains that eliminating paper use is currently unrealistic and instead focuses on certifying forests according to a criteria.
Understanding the FSC labels
According to estimates, around 15 billion trees are used every year to produce paper products, with roughly 24 trees required to produce a ton of virgin paper.
To manage this, the FSC offers a third-party certification system that allows businesses to communicate their commitment to responsibly sourced wood. The certification uses three distinct labels, which can be found on everything from decking and garden furniture to paper, pencils, and toilet roll.
The idea is that when people see one of these three FSC labels, they can be confident that buying the product isn’t harming the world’s forests. They include the following:
The wood or fibres used come from reclaimed or re-used material, reducing the volume of virgin material used.
At least 70% of the wood or fibres used come from FSC-certified material, recycled material or controlled wood, reducing the volume of materials that come from prohibited sources.
All the wood or fibre used comes from FSC-certified forests. Currently only about a third of all certified products have this label.
To carry the FSC label, forests are inspected and certified against strict standards based on the FSC’s 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. Independent organisations, such as the Soil Association, carry out these inspections to ensure a fair and unbiased assessment.
Why should coffee roasters use FSC-certified packaging?
As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their buying habits, it is crucial for businesses to adopt sustainable packaging alternatives.
According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, more than half of US consumers are highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, ranking marine litter and other factors, such as deforestation and natural-resource depletion, as the main sources of their concerns.
For coffee roasters, using FSC-certified kraft paper packaging has a number of benefits. Not only is it cost-effective and widely available, it can help communicate a commitment to sustainability on two fronts.
First, kraft paper is one of the easiest coffee packaging materials to recycle.
In most towns and cities around the world, it can be disposed of at home along with materials such as corrugated cardboard, where it will be collected and taken to a recycling facility.
At the facility, it is sorted to ensure all impurities and toxins are properly removed, before being taken to a mill, where the recycling process begins.
Recycling kraft paper packaging involves a number of steps, including pulping, cleaning, screening, de-inking, dispersion, kneading, bleaching, water treatment, and waste handling. At the end of the recycling process, new paper items are produced. For most kraft paper products, this can be done up to seven times.
Second, when the kraft paper is made using wood sourced from FSC-certified forests, it carries the FSC’s label, which is a clear commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing. It demonstrates that the roaster has not only chosen a material that can be easily recycled, but also preserves the world’s forests for future generations.
This is essential at a time when consumers have started showing a clear preference for more eco-friendly products, particularly in Europe. Indeed, research commissioned by the Environmental Investigation Agency found that 87% of European consumers demand deforestation-free products.
The FSC was established with a clear goal to protect and promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. In the 28 years since launching, it has become one of the most widely recognised certifications and has helped countless businesses switch to more sustainable products.
At MTPak Coffee, we understand the importance of looking after not only the world’s forests, but the entire planet for future generations. As such, we can guarantee that all our paper-based coffee packaging, including our kraft paper bags, are from forests that have been certified by the FSC.
These coffee bags, which can be fitted with degassing valves, additional layers, and resealable zippers to preserve freshness, both limit environmental impact and showcase a clear commitment to sustainability.