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Loose tea brews up recyclable barrier pouches

Loose tea brews up recyclable barrier pouches
Created by a collaboration among three firms, Harney & Sons new flexible pouch is 100% recyclable while still meeting the brand’s criteria for moisture and oxygen protection, performance and aesthetics.

Tea producer Harney & Sons has introduced multilayer stand-up pouches for its loose-leaf and herbal-infusion products that are a first for the category. Created by TC Transcontinental Packaging in collaboration with Dow Chemical and Charter NEX Films, the pouches feature an ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) barrier and reportedly are 100% recyclable.

Emeric Harney, marketing director for Harney & Sons, says packaging sustainability is a priority for the company.

“Our company is a member of 1% For the Planet, an organization that assists us in donating 1% of our gross profits to non-profits,” he says. “Additionally, as a forward-thinking company and an innovator, we are trying to push the envelope where the packaging industry and the tea industry overlap. For many years, there wasn't a lot of available technology to change elements of our packaging. But now there is.”

Rebecca Casey, vp, marketing and consumer market development, TC Transcontinental Packaging, says while pouches have popped up bearing claims of full recyclability, the new Harney & Sons pouch stands out.

“The pouch is a multilayer barrier stand-up pouch, 100% recycle ready for in-store drop off,” she says. “A multilayer, flexible barrier film was not currently commercialized for a food product. A multilayer, coextruded film is essential to preserve the delicate flavor of tea by protecting the product’s natural oils that give tea leaves a smooth flavor and finish.”

Casey adds that while food-product pouches tend to contain polyethylene (PE) to guard against moisture and EVOH to block gases, the combination made recycling the packages impossible. “We developed one of the first commercialized packages for food that hits all notes: 100% recycle ready for in-store drop off, EVOH barrier for product preservation, seal strength and durability,” she says.

The pouches’ recyclability is made possible by Dow Chemical’s proprietary Retain resin technology. The technology compatibilizes the barrier, allowing the multilayer film to be recycled. Charter NEX provided its GreenArrow recyclable films. The two companies and TC Transcontinental Packaging collaborated on extruding, laminating and converting the materials to create a 100% recyclable barrier pouch.

According to Casey, coming up with a pouch that met the brand owner’s standards for product protection, flavor and aroma preservation and looks—all while being fully recyclable—presented a list of challenges.

“There is a smaller operating window for sealing, varying both the temperature and speed—too much heat can distort the seal profile, and too little heat can lead to possible leakers, most commonly found in the zipper and gusset crush area as discovered through our testing process,” Casey says. “Transcontinental Flexstar has put in place procedures, equipment and know-how to produce this in-store drop off fully recyclable pouch.”

The films are converted into premade pouches at Transcontinental Flexstar. Each pouch features a Presto Fresh-Lock zipper, made of PE to meet requirements for in-store drop-off recycling.

Harney & Sons launched the recyclable pouches in its stores in November. Harney says as the pilot continues, employees will continue to educate customers on the pouches’ innovative recyclable structure.


Jenni Spinner

Freelance writer and former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with more than two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.


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