Most of us love a good cup of joe, but at what cost?
The lethal combination of more and more coffee pod users mixed with unfit and incapable recycling programs has led to the concoction of an earth devastating coffee cocktail.
Contrary to how it sounds, this isn’t the plot of the next big Asylum blockbuster, although I wouldn’t put it passed them!
To make a long story short, coffee pods have drastically changed the face of the coffee industry. Some say that convenience is the most valuable commodity on the market today. If there’s any truth to that, then coffee pods are like wood to fire. Pop one in the machine and few seconds later you have hot and ready to drink coffee. Discard the packaging and continue on your merry way. If that’s not convenience, I don’t know what is.
But the problem isn’t the convenience, it’s the packaging. The traditional coffee pod is made up of a mixture of plastic and aluminum. This proves very challenging to recycle, but add the unused coffee sludge that’s sitting at the bottom of the pod to the equation and this becomes an even greater nuisance for recycling plants. It’s nearly impossible to separate the multiple layers from the pods for reuse. There are only a few thousand recycling plants in the world that have the capacity to accomplish this feat. Now to make the job for recycling plants ‘easier’, you could use the ‘Recycle A Cup’ to separate the various layers of the pod which would allow you to at least recycle certain components, however, this is hardly sustainable in the long term and not very inviting to consumers. The lack of capable recycling plants combined with the fact that many people don’t recycle the pods in the first place means that the majority of them end up in landfills.
Let’s take this a step further. The plastic used in most traditional coffee pods is Polycarbonate, more commonly known as plastic #7, which is a mixture of different types of plastics. Polycarbonate is one of the worst plastics for your health as it contains the infamous chemical compound, BPA. It’s also for this very reason that many recycling plants refuse to deal with pods entirely.
In short, traditional coffee pods are not only bad for the environment, they’re also bad for your health.
Not all is doom and gloom for the coffee industry in its current state. There are many sustainable brewing options out there that’ll help you get the best out of your precious coffee grounds while keeping a keen eye on the environment.
If you’re a podster, the sustainable solution that would suit you best is the compostable coffee pod. There are a few organizations that have been experimenting with this, most notably OneCoffee and Club Coffee who make a 99% and 100% biodegradable pod, respectively. Use these pods and you’ll be drinking guilt free coffee in no time.
Other sustainable solutions would be to use a French press or Moka Pot. The French press is my personal favorite choice as it makes great ‘long’ coffee and leaves absolutely no waste behind! Alternatively, if you’re not into either of these methods, using a traditional drip coffee maker would work just fine as well. It’s a less sustainable option as a filter is necessary, however, it’s still better than traditional single use capsules as the filters can be composted.
Our goal as responsible and sustainable consumers should be to end the toxic single use coffee capsule movement that George Clooney and company have wrongly glorified. It’s a real problem for the environment and even our own health.
Besides altering your coffee making ritual, if you’d like to have an even bigger impact, consider signing the petition over at www.cleancoffeeproject.org which aims to convince the European Union that a proper recycling system for single use capsules is necessary and has to be implemented if we’re to make this booming industry more sustainable.
I’d love to hear what your favorite sustainable brewing method is so feel free to share it in the comments!
Until next time, The Sustainable Guy out.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/