The Benefits of the Compostable Pod
Sustainability Traditional coffee pods are made of non-recyclable plastics, but Club Coffee pods are working toward a more sustainable future.
When John Sylvan invented the American coffee pod in 1990 he couldn’t have imaged then just how much his invention would change the way North Americans drinks coffee. But today, the sales of coffee made in single-brewing systems, barely noticeable a decade ago, account for more than a quarter of every dollar Americans spend on coffee they drink at home. And while the single-serve pods offer both convenience and consistency, they are easy to use and make great tasting coffee; they are difficult, if not impossible to recycle.
And like most single-use plastic—think straws, plastic bags and disposable utensils—coffee pods generate vast amounts of plastic waste that is not biodegradable because they are made from non-renewable, petroleum-based sources that cannot be recycled, and are ultimately bad for the environment.
Responding to the consumers’ need for environmentally- friendly products, manufactures, since 2006, have been producing 100% recyclable coffee pods. There’s just one problem.
The Truth Behind: 100% Recyclable
“People don’t recycle them, because it’s such a pain,” says Dr. Calvin Lakhan, co-investigator of The Waste Wiki project. The traditional pod says Lakhan needs to be broken into three sections and processed separately. Most people find the pods hot to touch and messy to separate. Furthermore, most municipal recycling facilities just wont take them. “The plastic pods are too small and the coffee will ruin other recycling,” says Lakhan.
For the few municipalities that can recycle plastic pods, the cost is enormous. It costs an estimated $2000 per tonne to recycle plastic pods compared to the $60 per tonne to recycle newspaper.
This means the 20 billion plastic pods used each year in North America are going into the garbage, contributing to the food waste in landfills and adding to the greenhouse gas emissions behind climate change. There is now enough plastic pod waste produce each and every year to circle the earth more than 13 times.
For entrepreneurs Claudio Gemmiti and John Pigott, CIO and CEO of the Coffee Club, finding a way to make coffee without mass-producing plastic and aluminum pods was both a challenge and a business opportunity.
If successful, it would mean that they would be able to produce a product that was both profitable and green.
Over a four-year period, and with the help of University of Guelph researchers, Club Coffee has been able to produce the world’s first certified, plant-based coffee pod that is 100% compostable.
The PurPod100 requires no separation to dispose of it and it’s all completely compostable. “The ring of each compostable pod is composed of a unique resin made from the skin of roasted coffee beans,” says Gemmiti. The filter, unlike traditional plastic pods, is not made with petroleum but with renewable bio-based materials. And the compostable pod does not use chemicals like the vinyl compound EVOH, which means that coffee is not exposed to chemicals when it’s brewed.
“For the consumer, the compostable coffee pods are a better, simpler way to enjoy the convenient high-quality coffee one expects from a plastic pod without the unnecessary health and waste,” says Pigott.