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Are Coffee Pods Destroying the Environment?

For a nation of tea drinkers, the UK sure loves a good cup of coffee. 80% of adults admit to indulging in a steaming mug of coffee to get the day started, but are some coffee products more environmentally friendly than others?

It turns out the answer is yes, with the city council of coffee pods from all state-run buildings, stating that the ‘portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminium’.

Indeed, this step is only the start, with many officials and environmental agencies warning that the increasing popularity in convenient coffee pods may give us a quick fix of caffeine, but will soon wreak havoc on the environment.

What are coffee pods?

Coffee pods are single serve capsules to be placed into a machine that quickly fills a cup with coffee, and are increasingly popular not only due to their convenience, but also due to the varying flavours on offer. Many people tire easily of the same taste every day, so the easily accessible range of flavours offered by the likes of leading companies Nespresso, Nescafe, and Keurig, means the latest coffee trend keeps on growing.


Coffee pods currently make up one third of the Western European coffee market, with capsule sales growing by 9% every year since 2011. An estimated £112m worth of coffee pods were sold in the UK alone, with approximately 22% of people polled by a Harris Interactive survey for The Grocer admitting they own a machine in their own home.

What’s the problem with coffee pods?

Hamburg banned the use of coffee pods in their state buildings because of the excess packaging and non-recyclable materials being used to store the coffee. Coffee pods are often made from more than one material – plastic and aluminium, which are recyclable alone, but when manufactured in one item together, these materials are difficult to separate for recycling. In fact, experts say that even if people were to recycle their coffee pods, the components are so small that they will often be neglected at recycling facilities.

What’s more, coffee pods will always have coffee grounds left inside them after use, which also makes it hard to sort into materials fit to be recycled. While coffee-pod manufacturers undergo pressure to design recyclable packaging, perhaps as a nation we should be looking at alternative methods to brewing the perfect cup.

A french press, aeropress, chemex, or even old fashioned instant coffee can still make a good brew, and are friendlier to the environment and to your wallet – with coffee pods costing on average 30p per pod, they are significantly more expensive than coffee beans.

At Woodford Recycling, we constantly strive towards achieving a zero to landfill goal, currently recycling over 85% of the waste we collect from the Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon and Peterborough areas.

Working with companies of all size, as well as domestic customers, we have a large materials recycling facility to ensure your waste is processed in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Get in touch with us today for more information.


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