Is There a Serious Problem with Coffee Capsules?

Coffee has evolved from ground coffee, instant coffee and then to hip, but expensive coffee cafes where people flocked to get their daily dose. Recently, coffee lovers have resorted to the Nespresso machines which use small aluminum pods of ground coffee covered with foil or filter paper that can give you a single serving of portable coffee. These coffee capsules were first sold by Nespresso in 1986 in four flavors that became very popular.

However, these single serving coffee pods or capsules have drawn a lot of criticism from many quarters, in particular environmentalists and health experts who have deemed them a menace rather than a convenience. As part of its green initiative to reduce waste, the German city of Hamburg introduced a ban in government buildings on polluting products which include equipment and packing used for hot drinks’ in January 2016. This specifically included the Kaffeekapselmaschine’ or coffee capsule machine which makes up 1 in every 8 coffees sold throughout the country.

The aluminum packaging is considered the main polluting culprit which consumes unnecessary resources and generates excessive waste. The capsules themselves cannot be easily recycled due to the mix of plastic and aluminum. In addition, the leftover coffee grounds at the bottom of the capsule makes them virtually unrecyclable. Government officials pointed out that this initiative sends out an important message about eliminating environmentally harmful products from the market altogether.

And it’s not just the Germans who have begun to reject coffee capsules. A poll by Harris Interactive for the Grocer revealed that one in 10 Britons believed that coffee capsules are bad for the environment.

But it may not be as easy as initiating environmental campaigns against coffee capsules to reduce their popularity. Coffee capsules account for one-third of the 18 billion euro Western European coffee industry. While the overall coffee market is also steadily increasing at about 1.6% each year, the growth rate for coffee capsules is a whopping 9%! In the UK alone, 112 million euro of coffee capsules were sold in 2015, which was an increase of one-third from the previous year. Some predict that coffee capsules will overtake the sale of tea bags by the year 2021 if this trend continues!

Even across the pond, the K-cup single-serving coffee capsule is America’s biggest selling capsule. John Sylvan, the American inventor has gone on record to say to express his concerns about his product. Others are also apprehensive about the carbon footprint we are leaving on this planet; while we are going to lengths to reduced greenhouse emissions, products such as coffee capsules set the planet back to about 20 or 30 years.

Experts suggest that there are better ways to make coffee that have a less harmful effect on the environment. Dough Leblanc, a coffee shop owner from Nova Scotia, Canada has initiated Kill the K-cup campaign which successful in keeping more than 200,000 capsules away from the town by persuading residents to consume coffee in a different way.

As a result of international pressure, coffee makers are now trying to manufacture their capsules more responsibly and make them recycle-friendly. Popular companies in the UK such Nescafe, Nespresso, and Philips are changing the designs of their coffee machines.

In particular, Philips have manufactured a new coffee machine, the Senseo which uses coffee capsules that are environment-friendly and similar to biodegradable teabags. Meanwhile, Nespresso has initiated its own recycling department which comprises of a pickup service for reusing discarded coffee capsules. It claims to have the capacity to recycle over 80% of used capsules with 14,000 capsule collection points across 31 countries and promises to take this to 100% by the year 2021. Another innovative idea is being used in Germany where recycled capsules are utilized for making parts in the automotive industry.

Environmentalists also have suggestions to encourage more recycling of coffee capsules at the community and individual levels. Leblanc says that putting a deposit for returning of capsules like that on pop and beer cans and bottles. Another way is to cut down on things we have to throw away as much as possible by reusing every item and also replacing coffee capsules with normal coffee, which is time-consuming to make but is better for the environment!. Thank you so much for your time, & I could like to hear from you soon.

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