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Coffee pods – a headache for sustainability?

Coffee is the most popular drink in the world with around two billion cups consumed every day. Despite our international reputation for favouring tea, in the UK we manage to drink 55 million cups of coffee every-single-day.  In recent years there has been a boom in the number of UK households and workplaces switching from drinking instant coffee to ground coffee and single-serve coffee pods. These single serving coffee pods are favoured for their higher strength and stronger taste, but there are problems when it comes to disposal.

Take the German port city of Hamburg, where the problem with coffee pods became so great that they have put a ban in place specifically targeting coffee capsules and pods.  A report from the department of Environment & Energy determined that the pods can cause “unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation”.

Why are coffee pods such a nuisance?
The problem lies in the complexity of their packaging. Coffee pods tend to be made up of a combination of various different materials, mainly plastics and aluminium, which can take between 150-500 years to naturally degrade in the environment and are hard to process at a recycling plant.

If they are so difficult to recycle why are they used?
The reason for the use of these materials rather than something which is more biodegradable is that coffee pods need to be able to withstand immense pressure and heat when brewing.  Coffee pods hold a large amount of coffee in a small amount of packaging which allows for a powerful and consistent brew for consumers.

Is there a solution out there?
Some leading coffee pod producers like Nespresso have begun to take responsibility for recycling their own capsules, placing collection points in convenient areas such as supermarkets, while other companies like Phillips have begun producing machines which use recyclable coffee bags rather than pods.

What should I do with my coffee pods?
In general, most recycling companies advise that you avoid using coffee pods all together and instead choose another method of brewing your coffee. However, if you do decide to use them then you are unable to place them in your recycling collections at home.

Here at LSPS we take recycling very seriously. To find out how about we can help with your waste disposal needs please contact us on 0800 083 7807, or visit our website for further information.

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