Why We Need to Stop Using Single Use Coffee Capsules
People are always looking for ways to make life easier and get tasks done quicker. While this has led to some incredible feats of innovation over the years, some of these methods have come at a cost by contributing to environmental damage.
One such example is the creation and use of coffee capsules or pods in home brewing systems. All coffee lovers want to be able to make their coffee as quickly and easily as possible; that’s why the AeroPress was developed to make coffee in 30 seconds!
However, before eco-friendly coffee makers, like the AeroPress, made it onto the market, coffee machines that use pods had become popular. In fact, in the UK, almost one-third of households own an espresso pod machine.
While these coffee machines can offer a fairly quick and easy brew, their environmental impact is often poor. Here we explore why we need to stop using single-use coffee capsules.
What Are Coffee Pods?
Coffee pods or coffee capsules are small containers filled with enough ground coffee to make a single serving cup. They are used with a coffee machine, with Nespresso, Tassimo, Keurig and Lavazza being popular examples.
Typically, these coffee pods are made with plastic and aluminium, and are often single-use and end up in landfill, rather than being recyclable.
Waste Created by Single Use Coffee Pods
Each year, it is estimated that 20 billion coffee capsules are used. This equates to enough capsules to circle the Earth 14 times!
Halo, a compostable coffee pod company, conducted research into the environmental impact of this coffee-making method. They revealed that every minute, 39,000 coffee capsules are made in the world, with 29,000 getting dumped in landfill.
Many environmental agencies and those within the coffee industry have highlighted single-use coffee pods as a danger to the environment.
John Hocevar, Oceans Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA, states that:
“Coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet… Many end up getting incinerated, dumping poison into our air, water and our soil.”
In addition, John Sylvan, creator of the K-Cup coffee pod, has previously stated his regret for creating the product due to its negative impact on the planet, claiming that the eco-concerns held against the pods is ‘valid criticism’.
While Keurig has stated that they are making moves to develop more environmentally friendly K-Cups, Sylvan revealed in an interview that “no matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable.”
Difficulties Recycling Coffee Pods
To be fair to coffee pod companies, several have made steps to make their products more environmentally friendly, but in many cases, this has not worked out as well as it needs to.
For example, Tassimo’s L’Or coffee pods are technically recyclable, but in order to recycle them, the used pods must be dropped off at a designated recycling point. While this could be a good scheme, there are only a handful of designated drop-off locations (49 at time of writing) in the whole of the UK.
This would mean most people would have to drive significant distances to recycle their coffee pods, which is unlikely to happen, and would cause further environmental damage from car exhausts if they did!
Likewise, Nespresso’s aluminium capsules are technically fully recyclable, but have to be sent back to Nespresso’s own recycling factory directly. This is because the aluminium pods are lined with silicon and need to go through a specific process to be recycled.
While they have tried several initiatives and established drop-off points to encourage people to return the pods, at the moment, less than 25% of these coffee pods are recycled.
Alternatives to Coffee Capsules
We all need to make small changes to help reduce our impact on the planet. Luckily, there are a few ways that can help make coffee brewing a little more eco-friendly.
If you are set on sticking with a coffee machine to make coffee, then several independent companies have taken to creating compostable and biodegradable coffee pods. It does still take quite a long time for these to fully biodegrade though.
There are also a number of refillable and reusable coffee pods on the market, which can be refilled with coffee after you use it. This would typically be a one-off purchase of one plastic or aluminium pod that can be reused over and over to make coffee, which will help to drastically reduce the amount of plastic going into landfill.
Switch to an Eco-Friendly Coffee Maker
Ditch the coffee pods altogether and choose a coffeemaker that allows you to create coffee how you like – not with prefilled amounts in pods. The AeroPress, for example, can make coffee just as quickly as a coffee machine (if not quicker!), producing rich and smooth coffee in about 30 seconds.
It is a reusable coffee maker, with the only ‘waste’ produced being the reusable and compostable paper filters and the compostable coffee puck. There is nothing to go in the landfill.
AeroPress is also designed as an on-the-go travel coffee maker, meaning you can bring it with you on your commute, to work, on camping trips and picnics, allowing you to enjoy coffee without the need for disposable cups and pods when out and about too!
If you would like to discover more about making your coffee consumption more sustainable, then check out our blog on the top ways to become a more ethical coffee drinker!