The downside of single-cup coffee brews
Despite the increased popularity pod coffee has gained in the recent years it creates unnecessary waste, as billions of used coffee pods are tossed in trash each year.
About 3 grams of packaging is used per 6grams of coffee in a single coffee pod which is unnecessary use of resources. The city government of Hamburg recognizes there are better things to be bought with the tax-payer’s money than products to fill-up the landfills and bans from the government-run buildings, the use of single serve coffee pods along with other items that use disposable packaging like plastic cutlery and plates, water, beer, and soft drinks.(money.cnn.com)
"Capsule-coffee is expensive and the pods don't have a good ecological balance sheet," said Jan Dube, media spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment and Energy. "They have lots of packaging compared to the small amount of coffee and we just decided we don't want to buy those products anymore with public money." The pods are hard to recycle as the packaging contains a mixture of aluminium and plastic that needs to be separated before recycled. Unless the popular brands behind the coffee pods; like Keurig in the U.S. and Nespresso in Europe are willing to play their part, the issue of increasing number of pods ending up in the land-fills is hard to tackle.
Around three billion coffee capsules were consumed in 2014 alone in Germany out of which 64 million pods are estimated to have been consumed by the 1.75 million inhabitant of Hamburg (news.vice.com). The numbers are worth considering the ban according to Jan Dube.
In the US, roughly 13 per cent of people drink a coffee made from a single-cup brewer every single day.(idependent.co.uk)
Although the companies do offer recycling options; that include collection points for the pods, provided the user is willing to take off the aluminium portion of the pod from the rest; sbbtill are reluctant to release figures about the amount of pods that end up in landfills.
“Nespresso agrees with the principle” is what Nespresso’s spokesperson Diane Duperret had to say. Hamburg's environmental guidelines "highlighted the need to move towards a more sustainable society." (news.vice.com)
Keurig promises to make their K-cups recyclable by 2020. The company released the following on their website. "It's a very complex challenge ... the pods must keep coffee fresh before brewing, withstand the heat and pressure during brewing, and be easily punctured with a needle as part of the brewing process." (money.cnn.com)
Although the ban is limited to city government buildings and public institutions, the guidelines received overwhelmingly good response according to Dube. Although he doesn’t want to dramatize Hamburg’s efforts, he does hope the example to send out similar waves of environmental friendly steps further.