Coffee capsules are gaining in popularity, but they are typically single-use and made of virgin polypropylene (PP).
Working with Berry and Neste, the German coffee producer Tchibo sought to optimize the material in its capsules for its Qbo brand. The result is the introduction of a coffee capsule reportedly made from identical types of bio-based polymers, such as waste and residue oils and fats, such as used cooking oils.
According to a life cycle assessment conducted by the Technical University of Berlin in accordance with ISO 14040/44, the conversion of the Qbo capsule material results in approximately 35% less CO2 emissions.
Tchibo’s development manager for capsules and innovations, Marius-Konstantin Wiche, explained that while Tchibo’s Qbo capsules are still made of polypropylene (PP), this material is now produced from 70 percent renewable raw materials as opposed to virgin fossil oil, as is typical for coffee capsules. This makes the entire Qbo range, which contains sustainably grown Qbo coffee brewed in Qbo machines, one of the most environmentally friendly capsule systems available.
The renewable materials are sourced using a mass balance methodology that has been certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon (ISCC PLUS) system. Mass balance certification enables the proportion of bio-based raw materials utilized in the production value chain to be mathematically assigned to the final product, allowing this information to be displayed on the packaging. The certification provides full traceability throughout the entire supply chain, from raw materials to the final coffee capsule, as well as validation of the sustainability of the raw materials.
The renewable solution is described as having the same qualities and properties as conventional ones, which means that the new capsules offer the same performance and product experience. In addition, the renewable feedstock can be incorporated into existing production lines without requiring any modifications.
Marius-Konstantin Wiche confirmed, “We needed to ensure that the high quality and delicious flavor of the Qbo coffee would not be compromised.” “This is why we focused on replacing the capsules’ raw materials rather than the PP itself. Renewable materials are used to produce PP polymers with the same quality as virgin PP; there is no discernible difference in appearance or flavor.
Berry’s introduction of new capsules bolsters its recently-announced commitment to use 30 percent circular plastics in its packaging for fast-moving consumer goods by 2030, as the company envisions decoupling from virgin plastic and fossil fuels in the long run.
“Supporting our customers’ expanding sustainability commitments is a top priority as we plan for the future requirements of a net-zero, circular economy,” stated Jean-Marc Galvez, president of Berry Global Consumer Packaging International. “One of our core competencies is providing the infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities necessary to design products for circularity. I am extremely proud of this partnership and its dedication to demonstrating the potential of renewable raw materials to reduce the environmental impact of capsules.”