The Environmental Impact of Using Coffee Pods
6th June 2019
Coffee pods are single-serving pods capped with foil or filter paper containing coffee grounds and used in capsule machines. They are often so attractive because of their convenience factor, but not necessarily because they are healthy for our environment.
Last year saw over 10 billion individual pods sold. They are however, becoming less popular due to their environmental impact. Made of plastic, aluminium and several layers of specialised materials to help withstand immense heat and pressure during the brewing process, they are impossible to recycle and take centuries to biodegrade.
Coffee pods seem innocent at first glance. Pop a capsule in a capsule machine, press a button, and behold, a tasty cup of coffee. Nothing to measure or clean, except to throw the empty pod into the bin and off you go. But, the impact coffee pods are having on our environment is devastating and there are no signs of matters improving, unless we start producing biodegradable alternative pods that are plastic and aluminium free.
Hundreds and millions of plastic and aluminium pods are being thrown away each year in the UK. It is estimated that over 300,000,000 aluminium and plastic capsules are used and thrown away each year, with over 95% of them ending up in landfill. This is not good, considering each pod takes a minimum of 500 years to break down. The complexity of the packaging and mix of different materials is the root cause of this, making them difficult to process in standard recycling plants.
Truth is, coffee pods are harmful to our environment and impossible to dispose of. Many coffee companies are looking towards more sustainable alternatives including biodegradable pods that can still withstand brewing temperatures, and freshly ground coffee beans in foil packaging. The UK should be inspired to follow in the footsteps of the German City of Hamburg who have officially banned all coffee pods from state-run buildings as part of the environmental drive to reduce waste. They have stated that “these portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain pollution aluminium” according to Jan Dube, the spokesman of the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy.
Another sustainable alternative to plastic and aluminium coffee pods is portioned coffee: a method to reduce water, coffee waste and the carbon footprint per cup. Using bean-to-cup machines rather than capsule machines is a solution to this. With a bean-to-cup machine, you can manage the volume of coffee used per cup, the type of cup used to grab a coffee from the machine and there is minimal waste overall, with fresh coffee beans bought in recycled packaging.
Many coffee companies are reducing or eliminating the use of single-use products, like coffee pods that are harmful to the environment and creating better alternatives. Making a conscious choice to choose sustainable brewing over harmful brewing techniques, could be the change that is needed to help protect our natural environment.