Let’s start our day with a nice cup of guilt-free coffee.
Single-serve coffee pods currently make up 37% of all coffee consumed, according to the National Coffee Association. Can biodegradable coffee pods be the answer? Find out how they compare to loose coffee, and what health issues biodegradable coffee pods can cause.
The invention of the single-use coffee pods, also known as the K-cup by Keurig, made coffee lovers around the world celebrate, while environmentalists cringe. Even though they might seem small and innocent at first, coffee pods have added to the single-use plastic crisis.
In the last decade, coffee pod machines have taken over. We have noticed this, especially since we have been on the road. Almost every hotel has a Keurig or Nespresso pod machine. Even most of the Airbnb places we go to have one of the pod machines.
Coffee pods are convenient.
I get it. The alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed, make yourself a cup of coffee.
Press a button and pop the little coffee pod into the machine. Followed by the humming sound of the water pushing and a couple of seconds later, you have your brew ready to go.
Now, I have to be straight up with you here. I am a coffee addict. I have been using a percolator for a long time, and I love the coffee that these little things make. Sure they require a little bit more work than just placing a pod in a machine and pressing a button. (There is actually a little bit of skill needed if you want your coffee to taste amazing.) But it’s not that hard, trust me if I can do it, you can too.
So getting a machine that uses plastic pods which are known to leach chemicals and uses old coffee (who knows how long the pod has been in there), wasn’t going to work for me.
I am not a big fan of long blacks or drip coffee. I like my cappuccino or espresso. The good old percolator was going to be my weapon of choice, especially since we are currently traveling.
Why changing your coffee drinking habits can save the world?
The reason why I am talking about coffee pods and why biodegradable coffee pods aren’t the answer is simple:
- 75 million homes use K-pods every day
- 112,252 pods are made every minute worldwide ~ newstalk
- The rest gets lost and potentially ends up in the ocean
- Over 56 billion coffee capsules went to landfill in 2018 ~ newstalk
That is a heck of a lot of waste that we can potentially prevent. Now there are a lot of companies that started designing biodegradable coffee pods and also reusable pods, which are a good alternative if you don’t want to throw out your machine, or are they?
Like the compostable K-cup and the biodegradable SFbay cup, or the Gourmesso, they all claim to be 100% compostable. And most consumers will see that and don’t look any further. “If the company says they are compostable, then it has to be right.”
Yes and No!
This is what I found on Groumesso’s page:
** Glorybrew pods are certified compostable in Industrial Facilities only. Check locally, as these do not exist in many communities. The pods are not certified/suitable for backyard composting, as no current certification exists. Not certified for backyard composting. ~gourmesso.com
This is what SFbay is saying. Although they openly say that the family business is working hard to get them home compostable by 2020, which is great.
Commercially compostable means that our OneCups must be brought to a commercial composting site for disposal. ~ SFbay
This is what you will find for any of the pods that claim to be 100% compostable. They are, but only if you have access to an industrial composting facility that can deal with them. So, in other words, it’s greenwashing and designed to make the consumer feel better.
9.8 billion are thrown out each day according to a report from 2013. ~ sustainability.ucsf.edu
Let’s see how they hold up when we compare the costs of coffee pods to lose coffee beans?
The cost of a coffee pod vs. the cost of coffee beans
|Nescafe||12 Pods||$ 8-11||9g|
|Tim Horton||30 Pods||$20||N/A|
Compare that to 1 kg of artisan coffee beans for $36
I mean, I am not good at maths, but that is a no brainer, even to me.
What about biodegradable coffee pods?
Coffee cups are generally made from #5 polypropylene, with a combination of aluminum, paper filter, and organic material( coffee ground). While generally speaking, all these materials can be recycled, if they have been separated.
Unless each coffee capsule gets separated and washed, they most likely end up in landfill or find their way in the incinerator where they get burned for electricity. Through wind and bad waste management, they also add to ocean pollution.
You know the story here.
While there are companies like recycleacup.com, trying to tackle the problem with new inventions, using lose coffee ground is still the better solution, in my opinion.
Although, companies like PurePod, even have the audacity to claim that single-use coffee pods are more sustainable than percolators and drip coffee. The article in FastCompany puts it nicely. They are saying that buying a Hummer is a great way to save fuel compared to your old 1950s road-going ship.
So yes, most cups can be recycled if separated – and cleaned – and then get sent to a recycling plant – and shreds it down to pallets – and turns it into the new plastic material. But do you think that is actually what’s happening?
We know that only 9% of rubbish gets recycled worldwide.
So instead of hoping for the K-cup or the other coffee pods to be wish-cycled, there are some additional steps we can take.
Companies like Keurig and Nestle are well aware of the ongoing pollution they create with the coffee pods. So one solution is compostable coffee pods.
Let’s look at the SFbay compostable pod: At first glance, it looks pretty good.
- It is made from a plant-based material
- Claim that is compostable.
- But did you read the fine print?
Well, if you didn’t, I have done it for you.
Plant-based plastics require a unique facility to be able to decompose properly. Now, this is actually for any plant-based plastic.
The so-called “bioplastic”!
Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
There are 8 in Canada and 220 in the USA, and the chances are that your coffee pods end up there are slim to none.
If you want to find a composting facility near you, try the button below. 👇
Here are my top takeaways from biodegradable coffee pods and the Keurig machine.
- Coffee tastes best when freshly ground
- Capsules contain less coffee than my percolator and are less fresh.
- The cost of the capsules is about four times as much as loose beans.
- The pods create a massive problem for our environment
- Plastic leaches chemicals into your coffee – this changes the flavor but also has health impacts.
Are reusable pods my best option?
As I was standing in the supermarket aisle earlier today, I was looking at the ground coffee, and there it was. A reusable coffee pod. But how good are they? The one in the supermarket was made of plastic. 🙁
While there are plenty of companies now making reusable coffee pods to fit any machine, I would only recommend the ones that are made from stainless steel.
We know that plastic leaches chemicals, especially when boiling water is poured over these little coffee pods. They release endocrine disruptors, which can mess with your hormones since they block the receptors. Not so good.
Ok, I am underexaggerating. It is a terrible idea to put plastic in contact with food. You should panic here!!!
Another plus of the reusable pods is that you can use fresh coffee and not the old stuff that has been sitting in the pod for god knows how long.
Which one is the right reusable coffee pod for my machine?
The best solution is to use stainless steel coffee pods. Since they will not leach chemicals into your coffee, nor will they affect the taste. I have created this list of reusable stainless steel coffee pods for your convenience.
Note: Since I don’t use a pod machine I read the ratings on Amazon, and here is the result.
Reusable coffee pod for Keurig
4.2 out of 5 stars (102 ratings)
Works on most Keurig machines.
Reusable coffee pod for Illy
4.5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)
Compatible for X7.1 X8 X9 Y 1.1 Y5 Series Original Line Machines
Recaps for Nescafe
3.8 out of 5 stars (258 ratings)
Compatible with most Nespresso machines but not all.
Recaps for Nescafe
4 out of 5 stars (953 ratings)
Compatible with most Keurig machines but not all.
The average American drinks 3.2 cups of coffee per day
Independent coffee shops equal $12 billion in annual sales.
At present, there are approximately 24,000 Coffee Shops across the US.
Statistics show there will be approximately 50,000+ Coffee Shops within the years to follow.
The average Espresso Drive-thru Business sells approximately 200-300 Cups of Espresso and Coffee Based Drinks per day.
41 % of Americans own a single-cup coffee maker.
In Hamburg, Germany, coffee pods were banned from state-run buildings as part of an environmental movement.
Well, I hope this article was helpful to you, and you can enjoy your next brew without having to screw up the planet.