Zume Introduces Eco-Friendly Coffee Lids to Help Tackle Plastic Pollution

30 May 2022 by Thaddeus Tan
blog author

With busy coffee drinkers still sipping on the go and adding to the mountains of single-use plastic, new innovations are appearing faster than you can say ‘skinny latte’.

As 200 billion coffee lids are used every year across the globe, the latest creation for the caffeine nation comes from Zume, the sustainable solutions company, which has announced the European launch of its coffee lids with a difference.

Robust enough to withstand hot beverages (unlike some of its counterparts), the company claims the moulded fibre snap-fit lids are 100 per cent compostable and 100 per cent PFAS-free (Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are chemicals which cause potential damage to the environment and human health).

Zume’s formed fibre coffee lids are aimed at providing a solution at the required scale to eliminate single-use plastic lids in Europe, which has the largest market of coffee-drinkers on the planet, with around 4.5bn disposable coffee cups used by thirsty consumers in Benelux annually.

The lids are made from mouldable fibres such as bagasse (sugarcane fibre) which is an agricultural waste, bamboo, wheat, straw and blends of various grass fibres. They will initially be rolled out in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Scandinavia, France, Italy and Spain, with more countries to be announced later this year.

A mere 0.25 per cent (one in 400) of plastic coffee cups and lids are recycled in the UK, according to Zume, with food brands tending to opt for plastic lids for coffee cups because they are cheap, convenient, and can cope with hot liquid while sustainable alternatives apparently fail to offer the same features, according to the California-headquartered firm.

The fibre lids are made in India, following a collaboration with Parason, a leading global pulp and paper industry supplier, to manufacture at their facility in Southeast Asia. The leakproof lids have undergone rigorous testing and quality control processes to ensure they meet consumer expectations and are also FDA-approved for food contact. 

The pioneering approach to problem-solving hardly comes as a surprise, from a company that was initially founded as an automated pizza delivery firm (with the pizzas prepared by robots and cooked en route to customers) before making the decision to completely transform its business dynamic, to focus purely on compostable food packaging and delivery logistics.

Last year, Zume joined forces with ABB Robotics to scale and automate the production of its moulded fibre packaging. The companies say that the manufacturing cells they have developed could potentially process 71,00 tonnes of agricultural material per year, and potentially produce up to two billion pieces of packaging annually. 

Alex Garden, CEO of Zume, said: “As brands, we have a responsibility to prioritize our environmental impact the way we do our bottom lines; through our sustainable coffee lids, food brands can now do both.

“Our moulded fibre lids have the same premium feel and functionality that coffee drinkers expect and show what’s possible when you combine a sustainable mindset with world-class engineering and product design at a price that makes it a cost-effective alternative to plastic.”

Thaddeus Tan, Senior Consultant at Acre Amsterdam, said: “Plastics and packaging have been on the forefront of environmental discussions for the past decade(s). Couple this with one of, if not the most, consumed beverage in the world, it is only logical that innovation that works for the everyday coffee consumer needs to be attained.

“While the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive that entered into force in mid-2021 has accelerated the adoption of sustainable options, retailers and consumers alike are caught between the dilemma of sacrificing the quality of coffee lids for lower cost or vice versa.

“With Zume’s coffee lids that uses agricultural waste and claims to provide not only the same quality but at a competitive cost to traditional plastic options, this will hopefully pave the way for a more sustainable coffee consuming culture globally and the use of ‘tech for good’.”

​With a background in urban planning with exposure in both Australia and Malaysia, Thaddeus' recruitment experience began with an executive search firm within the Technology space. He was part of the core team in growing the business and was responsible for cultivating strong relationships with major clients. Thaddeus has placed multiple positions from mid- to executive-level across various industries with a focus on Digital Transformation. Prior to this, he was with an urban planning and architecture firm in Kuala Lumpur where he was involved in the Integrated Shoreline Management Plan report for Sarawak.

Having been in a highly technical IT sector with training in sustainability, he understands the need and balance of specific domain knowledge with crucial soft skills to bring meaningful impact in solving sustainability challenges today. Thaddeus holds a BA in Urban and Regional Planning and a Master's degree in Urbanism.