The K-Cup coffee making system hit the market in the late 1990s. It made single serve coffee makers incredibly popular and had a profound effect on how people consume coffee in America and all over the world. Nearly one in three people now owns one. Unfortunately, they generate a lot of waste and are becoming a growing cause for concern. As a matter of fact, they generate ten times as much waste as a conventional drip brewer by some estimates. Most of it ends up in landfills, and you can’t compost the coffee grounds left in the pods. Let’s look at how you can minimize waste when using coffee pods.
At a minimum, you should buy coffee in recyclable plastic or metal containers instead of foil lined bags that can’t be recycled. You can even buy coffee bags that are made entirely out of paper. Better yet, buy coffee sold in recycled packaging. Recycle everything you can from the coffee filters to the cardboard container the half and half cream came in.
Switch to Reusable Items
You can now buy reusable coffee filters made to work with single-pod coffee makers. Note that you need to make sure the reusable filters are compatible with your machine. Another solution is switching to recyclable coffee pods. The coffee pods may already be made from recyclable materials like aluminum or number five plastic. Unfortunately, you might have to disassemble existing coffee pods into their recyclable pods into their recyclable parts. This is where recyclable coffee pods come in. They’re made from a single material that you can just throw in the appropriate recycle bin.
Another solution is bringing your own mug when you hit the coffee shop or the department coffee pot. Then you’re reducing their need for non-recyclable cups. Some coffee shops even give you a discount when you bring your own cup, since you’re saving them money on supplies.
Use Compostable Coffee Pods
Traditional drip brew coffee makers allow you to throw the coffee beans in the compost bin, and you can often compost the paper filter along with the pods. These pods could be composted in your own compost bin or dropped in a commercial compost bin. And you don’t have to buy compostable coffee pods from the manufacturer; for example, these Nespresso compatible pods are cheaper competing products, and they fit in the branded Nespresso machines. They also only use fair trade, ethically sourced coffee beans.
Buy a Coffee on Demand Machine
If you don’t already own a coffee pod system, consider buying an all-in-one coffee pod free single serve system. These systems will deliver single serve coffee on demand, but it can brew a dozen or more cups at a time. It will dispense the coffee into your reusable mug. All you have to do is scoop in the coffee and refill the water reservoir.
If you’re willing to do a little work, you could use a single serve French press system. There are even travel versions that combine the coffee mug and coffee press so you can make your own coffee any time you want. It saves you quite a bit of money, since each coffee pod costs three to four times as much as a cup of coffee brewed the conventional way. This approach also eliminates the need to throw away disposable coffee cups, products that are rarely recyclable themselves.
Coffee on demand is quite a convenience, though that has had a significant environmental impact to date. Fortunately, a number of products have appeared that allow you to get all the benefits of disposable pods, without the waste.