This City Has Banned Single-Use Coffee Pods in All Government Buildings

February 23, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

Used Nespresso coffee capsules
Photo credit: Andrés Nieto Porras/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you collected all the single-use coffee pods sold just by Keurig in a year and lined them up end-to-end, they would circle the planet almost 11 times!

There are a lot of people who own a Keurig, Tassimo, Nespresso or Verismo (to name a few) around the world, but some of the biggest problems associated with these machines is that they are extremely wasteful and neither environmentally- nor wallet-friendly. The companies are selling coffee at a profitable $40 USD per pound when you purchase it in pods compared with $12 to $15 per pound when bought for use with drip machines.

An unsettling statistic states that the number of pods sold in one year by the leading single-serve company, Keurig, if placed end-to-end would circle the Earth almost 11 times.  

Finally, something is being done to reduce the number of coffee pods being used.

SEE ALSO: Are we recycling too much of our trash?

As part of an initiative to reduce waste, Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, has banned single-use coffee pods in all government-run buildings.  

In Germany, roughly 13 percent of people drink coffee from a single-cup brewer every single day, and environmentalists have been calling for a ban on the pods since they are composed mainly of plastic and aluminum — which most recycling facilities are not equipped to recycle properly.  In other words, they end up in a landfill.

“These portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminium,” Jan Dube from the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy said in a press statement.   “The capsules can't be recycled easily because they are often made of a mixture of plastic and aluminium. It’s 6 grams of coffee in 3 grams of packaging. We in Hamburg thought that these shouldn’t be bought with taxpayers' money.”

Sales of the single-serve coffee machines have more than tripled in Western Europe and the United States since 2011, and coffee pods make up one-third of all coffee sold in the United States with 25 percent of US households owning a pod machine.

Disappointingly, only 5 percent of the pods made by Keurig were recyclable as of 2014, but the company has pledged to make its pods fully recyclable by 2020.  However, experts are skeptical, and even the inventor of the Keurig K-Cup, John Sylvan, admitted that he regrets making the product because of how much waste it produces.

SEE ALSO: There Could be More Plastic than Fish in the Oceans by 2050

“No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” John Sylvan, founder of Keurig and inventor of the K-cup, told James Hamblin at The Atlantic.  “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”

What is also concerning is that people are still using them even though they know the pods are bad for the environment.  According to a recent poll, 1 in 10 British residents said that they believe “coffee pods are very bad for the environment,” but at the same time, 22 percent of them said they owned one of the machines.  

“Pods are emblematic of a wider problem in our society, where we often say one thing and generally do another,” said Australian researchers John Rice and Nigel Martin in an article for The Conversation.  “In this case, where many of us like to speak about being 'green' or living sustainably, even while sipping from a cup of coffee produced by an industry that is about as sustainable as an ageing Soviet nuclear power plant.”

Even though the coffee pods are still legal everywhere else in the city, this ban will significantly reduce the number of pods entering landfills.  Imagine if all government buildings around the world enforced a ban like this?

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