Coffee-pod bashing may be a popular sport, but so is drinking coffee made from the pods — so it's a good thing recycling efforts are making gains.According to the BBC:
Coffee pods make up one third of the €18bn [roughly $20 billion U.S.] Western European coffee market, according to Ross Colbert, an analyst at Rabobank — and while the coffee market in general is growing at 1.6% a year, capsule sales are outstripping them, growing 9% a year since 2011.
Keurig may be the biggest name in the U.S. in the single-use pod business, but it's not the only one. Nespresso makes machines and coffee pods to fit its machines, too. In fact, the inventor who created the coffee pod concept did so for Nespresso — more than 30 years ago. That company, which has a firm hold on the European market, has been touting its pod recycling program recently and trying to make it as easy as possible for users to send the pods back for recycling.
Nespresso offers recycling bags with pre-paid shipping through UPS that hold up to 200 pods so consumers can send in pods for recycling. Consumers can order them free of charge when placing a coffee order through Nespresso or can contact the company and ask for a separate delivery. The company also has hundreds of drop-off points throughout the country for used pods.
Once collected, the aluminum in the pods is sent to a local smelter and the coffee grounds are turned into compost. Every part of the capsule is recycled, according to the company.
What about Keurig?
Keurig fans were given a similar reason to rejoice — and assuage their environmental guilt — with the announcement in 2015 that the coffee-making giant had released a recyclable coffee pod.
At that time, one in five kitchen counters in America housed a Keurig coffee machine, but the company came under intense scrutiny for its seeming monopoly on the coffee brewing market and for the extreme environmental degradation caused by its line of single-use plastic coffee pods. Keurig critics still love to flaunt the statistic that in 2013 alone, Keurig produced enough plastic coffee pods to circle the Earth 10.5 times.
On older machines, eco-conscious Keurig users could minimize waste by using a reusable filter for the single-serve coffee machines. Coffee drinkers could fill the pods with coffee of their choosing and rinse it out between servings. An extra step, but well worth it if the thought of filling the landfill with plastic pods made you cringe.
The reusable filter was originally not an option with the release of Keurig's 2.0 line, but the company received so much backlash from consumers that it quickly introduced a reusable pod to fit the newer machine.
Eco-minded Keurig users welcomed the new K-Mug pods, which are made from polypropylene plastic and can be separated from the lid and filter for recycling. The are not reusable, but they are recyclable, and that's a start. If you simply have to have your coffee from a Keurig, this is the way to go.
Of course, if you really want to get your buzz without harming the environment, you could step away from the individual-use coffee pods and try these tips to help you green your morning cup of joe.
This story was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated with more recent information.