From: Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published June 20, 2013 05:58 AM

Are Coffee Pods a Recycling Problem?

As the consumption of coffee pods surges in the U.S., so do the questions about their disposal and recycling. Although using a pod to make a cup of joe takes about the same amount of time as it does to fire up some water and then make a French press of coffee, the popularity of the single-serve coffee pod machines has taken off.


For now, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters-owned Kaurig has taken the lead in the coffee pod market share race, but Nestlé’s Nespresso and Starbucks;' Verismo also fare well among java fans. All of the coffee pod machine manufacturers use flowery language on their sustainability pages to describe how they are working to make the pods' disposal and recycling more "sustainable." The fact is, however, that there is no differentiation in what happens to these pods after use; all of them are creating more waste.

When it comes to its products' impact, Kaurig is upfront when the company states "the manufacturing requirements of the K-Cup pack currently make recycling difficult." The company ran life cycle analyses to gauge the environmental impact of the company's K-Cup and Vue pods: not surprisingly, the company's own studies found the products' packaging "represents a fraction of the total environmental impact." Whether the plastic in Kaurig's pods can be recycled is a crapshoot and varies by community: and of course, the coffee grounds would have to be extracted (and, in another step, composted) if pods were to avoid ending up in landfill.

Nespresso's sustainability site is borderline vapid, proclaiming that everything responsibly possible has been done "from the cherry to the cup." The company’s "Ecolaboration" United Kingdom site lists four locations in London (three of them at Selfridges, one at a Nespresso "boutique") where consumers can drop off their used pods, as if most Brits could be bothered tucking them in a purse or rucksack as they take the Tube across town. Like its competitors, Nestlé says when it comes to carbon emissions and sustainability, it is "committed," which is also the word I would use to describe anyone who thinks these coffee pods are a great idea in the first place. On the company's U.S. site, there is no mention of anything remotely smacking of sustainability at all, but plenty of marketing MBA gibberish about "innovation" and "the ultimate coffee experience."

Used K Cup image via Hampton Roads.

Read more at ENN Affiliate, TriplePundit.

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