Are Coffee Bags Recyclable?

You only buy sustainable, fair-trade coffee and know over a dozen ways to reuse old coffee grounds, but one question keeps you up at night: Are coffee bags recyclable? 

Are Coffee Bags Recyclable
Empty coffee bags are good for recycling and for the environment too

It seems like everyone is keen to be more ecological these days, and it’s almost impossible to find a town where the residents don’t have to drag multiple colored bins to the street on trash day. But have you ever found yourself wondering if your empty coffee bags are recyclable? Well, wonder no more, because most municipalities don’t allow you to recycle them. 

Why Aren’t Most Coffee Bags Recyclable?

Coffee companies design coffee bags to ensure their coffee stays fresh, and what is good at keeping coffee from going stale is terrible for recycling. The problem isn’t that the bags contain harmful materials, but rather how manufacturers combine them. 

Coffee packaging that uses a mix of materials, such as paper for the bag and aluminum for the lining, can’t go into the paper or the aluminum bins. And even bags made entirely from paper aren’t necessarily safe to recycle.

Many paper bags actually contain a coating of plastic or wax to give them structure and improve their performance, and this type of packaging should not wind up in a recycling bin.

So, what is a coffee-loving eco-warrior to do? You might also be interested in our guide on where can I buy disposable coffee cups.

Some Coffee Packaging Is Recyclable

Coffee beans with a coffee bag
Recyclable coffee bags use low-density polyethylene or LDPE

Well, there is at least some good news when it comes to recycling coffee bags. A few coffee roasters took the time to develop fully recyclable coffee bags. Most of these bags use low-density polyethylene, more commonly known as LDPE. 

Products such as shrink wrap, squeeze bottles and produce bags commonly use LDPE, and anywhere you can recycle them, you can recycle LDPE coffee bags.

Check with your local recycling program to make sure they accept LDPE products before adding them to the other plastic in your recycling bin. If your hometown doesn’t recycle LDPE, check with big boxes and grocery stores in your area to see if they will accept them. 

And suppose you are willing to pay to recycle your coffee bags, yes, any type of coffee bag. In that case, several companies are more than willing to break down your bags and recycle materials individually. It isn’t cheap and at over a hundred bucks for a small Zero Waste Box, but it is an option. 

A Few Alternatives to Recycling Coffee Bags

If your favorite coffee doesn’t already come in fully recyclable packaging, write the company, and ask them to switch. While you are waiting, there are lots of ways that you can reduce your coffee packaging waste as well as reuse any coffee bags you have at home.

How to Reduce the Amount of Coffee Packaging

Try buying coffee in bulk to eliminate extra packaging. The only problem when you buy in bulk is using up the coffee before it gets too old. You can overcome this dilemma by group buying with your friends, neighbors, and coworkers. 

The next time you go to a supermarket or local cafe that sells coffee by the pound, bring your own reusable bags instead of using disposable ones.

How to Reuse Empty Coffee Bags

Coffee beans in burlap bags
Coffee bags can be used as containers for plants with a mixture of coffee grounds for their soil

There is always some way you can upcycle your used coffee bags. Here are a few ideas if you need them.

Artistic people can incorporate coffee bags into all sorts of crafts. One of the most popular options is making duct tape and coffee bag shopping totes

Add a splash of color using coffee bags as a planting container for flowers. You can even mix some used coffee grounds into the soil to help your flowers thrive. 

Final Word on Are Coffee Bags Recyclable?

We are just starting to see a few roasters using 100 percent recyclable coffee bags, but there’s a long way to go before coffee bags are as recyclable as cans or bottles.

So, keep reminding the roasters of your favorite coffee brand that fully recyclable coffee bags matter to you. And in the meantime, it’s best to reduce the amount of non-recyclable coffee bags you buy and reuse the ones you do!

FAQs About Are Coffee Bags Recyclable?

Why is recycling coffee bags so important?

Food packaging makes up a massive percentage of the waste we throw away each day. It all ends up in landfills and can lead to environmental issues and harm our health. Recycling protects us and our planet. 

Can I recycle metal coffee cans?

Yes, you can. If your favorite coffee comes in a metal can, then you are in luck! Most municipalities have a separate container for metal cans. 


  • Jared B

    Jared Bernstein worked in the food industry for decades, starting as a barista in high school. He graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and worked in some of the city's top-end restaurants. When he isn't writing about cooking or historical recipes, he's probably hanging out at a classic diner or cafe.