IMA Coffee on its holistic approach to sustainability

IMA Coffee

Italian coffee processing and packaging manufacturer IMA Coffee is committed to improving the sustainability of its equipment, its customers, and even the materials running through its machines.

To IMA Coffee, being a sustainable business requires a holistic approach. It should go beyond improving the footprint of the Italian coffee processing and packaging equipment manufacturer, to reducing the environmental impact of its customers and even the suppliers it works with.

The IMA Coffee hub consists of two arms – IMA Coffee Packaging and IMA Coffee Petroncini – which each take different approaches to sustainability.

“Sustainability is a core pillar of the IMA Group’s mission in investing in technologies improving the quality of life, reducing waste, with a greater respect for the environment.” says Nicola Panzani, CEO of IMA Coffee Petroncini and Sales Director of IMA Coffee Packaging. “IMA Coffee is committed to this approach and contribute to the IMA Zero sustainability program through many activities, one of which is the sustainability of packaging.”

While IMA Coffee does not produce coffee bags or capsules itself, it manufactures the equipment that will fill, seal, and handles them.

“According to IMA NOP (No-Plastic Program), we promote eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on IMA machines. Furthermore, IMA has established the Open Lab, a network of technological laboratories, where we study, develop and test compostable and recyclable materials to be used on our packaging,” Nicola says.

IMA Coffee collaborates with material suppliers to help them develop options that are practical as well as environmentally friendly.

“We work closely with our customers around the world to implement their desired packaging. Many are interested in compostable capsules and packaging which are inherently more difficult to process, so we need to know what new materials will be coming to the market so we can ensure our machines will be ready to work with them,” Nicola says.

“For example, we’ve recently started cooperating with NatureWorks, one of the biggest producers of PLA plastic in the world, to foster the availability of compostable pods in North America, where Keurig-style machine are most common.In Europe and Australia, Nespresso-Style capsules are more popular and embrace recyclable aluminium is widely adopted, so we make sure processing that is a capability of our machines. Through the research and testing of alternative processes and materials, together with our partners, we foster plastic-free and sustainable, compostable or biodegradable packaging solutions.”

On the roasting and coffee processing side of the business, IMA Coffee Petroncini’s steps toward sustainability are more obvious, direct, and strictly related to IMA LOW (Low Impact Program), meant to increase sustainable practices to preserve resources, reduce emissions, and develop innovative low impact technologies.

“We’ve implemented many developments to reduce the emissions of the roasting equipment we produce, with a number of solutions available that we can tailor to meet the customer’s needs.”

This is made apparent in IMA Coffee Petroncini’s most advanced model, the TMR, which features a modular architecture and external heat generating unit. This external heater allows the TMR to deploy a heat recirculation system, eradicating roasting smoke, including odour and volatile compounds, with the partial recovery of the roasting air. Therefore, this system allows the thermal cleaning of the air ducts, reducing maintenance operations.

“This technology is based on the concept that, rather than having one burner to heat the air for roasting coffee and a separate afterburner to keep gases from being released into the environment, it’s better to combine them into one single burner, this reduces energy consumption, and therefore emissions, by more than 30 per cent, compared to traditional roasters with open roasting cycle,” Nicola says.

“This technology not only improves the TMR’s sustainability but its flexibility. This system uses convection heating and an innovative roasting control system, TMR allows to pre-draw the roasting profiles for a greater variety of unconventional recipes and, therefore, a perfect roasting repeatability.”

Nicola calls IMA Zero a pledge to create products, production processes, and services that will help to shape the world of tomorrow, which resonates with the forward-thinking Australia coffee industry.

“Australia is a market where there is significant attention to sustainability issues and our best-in-class technology is well suited to meet that demand,” Nicola says. “We will keep working on that. It’s a never- ending process and we’re always looking for new system and solutions to reduce the environmental impact of our equipment and customers.”

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This article appears in the June 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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