Can You Drink Pod Coffee And Still Sleep At Night?

coffee capsules, pod coffee

Image: Wikipedia

The coffee pod phenomenon has given me a few sleepless nights lately – and I’m not talking about a caffeine rush.   In the red corner, we have decent tasting, very convenient coffee, which suits me down the ground, especially when working from home.  In the blue corner, we have a whole bunch of hideous statistics about the wasteful environmental nightmare we are creating by churning through pods for the sake of convenience.

Did you know?

Now that I’ve made you all feel guilty, I’m also going to tell you that I’ve just bought a coffee pod machine.   After tossing and turning, researching options, and being mocked by friends who can’t BELIEVE I haven’t gotten on board the pod train yet, I finally relented.  But I feel guilty. I can’t claim to live a 100% ‘green’ lifestyle, but I normally try to do my bit when it comes to ethical shopping and environmental awareness.  So, is it possible to use a capsule coffee machine ethically?

George Clooney coffee cup

I’ll have what he’s having.
Image credit

Coffee pods can be recycled, sometimes

Coffee pods are the fastest growing form of coffee delivery in the world but they’ve also been called ‘the most wasteful form of coffee there is’.   Picture those 27 billion (at least) unrecyclable pods sitting around in landfill somewhere.  It’s not pretty. All the major producers are currently scrambling to come up with biodegradable pod options and Nespresso reckons they’ll manage it by 2020.  In the meantime, there are dedicated pod recycling locations for Nespresso pods – but this relies on you collecting them and taking them to an appropriate depot.   Most coffee pods should be recyclable, given that they’re made of aluminium and plastic, but – in Australia – they are too small for our sorting machinery. Coffee capsules fall through the cracks in the equipment that’s catching bottles and cans as they tip through and end up in the general refuse. In short you can’t put them in your normal household recycling bin.

There ARE recyclable and refillable pods available online, though not from any of the major brands. These might be worth a try if they fit your machine.   Again, there’s a catch – you will void any warranties on your coffee machine if you use non-authentic capsules, so it’s another case of weighing up pros and cons.

Lastly, you can always empty out and refill your existing pods like this: [youtuber youtube=’’]

Worth a try!

Coffee should also be Fairtrade

Long before pod coffee became one of the world’s most wasteful products, coffee itself was already one of the world’s most exploitative.   Between poor pay rates for farmers, extensive use of child labour and deforestation, you really don’t want to Google ‘facts about the coffee industry’ if you’re a regular imbiber with a conscience.  One small way to lessen the damage is to buy Fairtrade coffee .  Fairtrade certification means the farmers who produced your coffee beans were paid above the minimum rate (which is pitiful) for their hard work. It also means they’ve met a set of ethical growing standards, including acceptable working conditions and ecologically responsible farming.   In Australia, the only coffee machine brand that makes its own Fairtrade capsules is Map Caffitaly.  For other machines, you can buy other brands of Fairtrade capsule (like Republika pods at Coles, or Macro pods at Woolworths), but you will have the same issue with machine warranties.

Coffee pods are convenient

For better or worse, I drink a lot of coffee and my life feels nicer if it’s quick and tastes good.  And I love a bit of convenience as much as the next person;  and I’m willing to own up to my middle class failings.

But, I do think there are ways you can compromise, at least a little. I’ll be sticking with Fairtrade (always) and testing out the recyclable and refillable pods when I can.  I’ll also be writing a few emails to capsule manufacturers to remind them that convenience and responsibility don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Would anyone like me to pass on a message to George Clooney?

Do you use a coffee pod machine? Does it worry you at all – or am I just overthinking this?

14 comments for “Can You Drink Pod Coffee And Still Sleep At Night?

  1. Brooks B
    July 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I never knew these coffee pod have that much of an impact to the environment. Thanks for the light bulb moment.

  2. May 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Can you believe my parents bought me an Aldi coffee pod machine and I still haven’t used it! I do worry about the waste it creates. And yes, very true. Coffee should be fair trade. Thanks for the reminder x

  3. May 1, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    I don’t have a coffee pod machine, I prefer my espresso, but I think that not enough people think of the environmental impact. I know that we had the same issue at Easter with the foil wrappers being too small to recycle but if you balled them all together to make a bigger item then you could recycle it. I wonder if you could do something similar with your pods.

    • This Charming Mum
      May 2, 2015 at 9:53 am

      That’s a really good point about the foil wrappers at Easter – I actually hadn’t thought of that either. We tended to keep a lot of our Easter wrappers for my kids’ endless craft projects, lol. I think I might line up an interview with someone from the relevant authority to find out EXACTLY what can and can’t be recycled in Australia at the moment. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  4. Robomum
    May 1, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Great post!! Never thought about this. We have a manual machine and we give our granules to our worm farm so I’m pretty happy about that, Thanks for the pic of George. Swoon!

    • This Charming Mum
      May 2, 2015 at 9:51 am

      Yes, not surprising the Clooney Effect is so powerful. He is rather…erm…persuasive!

  5. May 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Nooooooo I go to all the effort of taking those blasted pods back to the Nespresso shop regularly and they’re not recycle?! I’m going to have to let that go through to the keeper – I already can’t eat any chocolate by manufacturers that don’t support fair trade / paid labour or who use children in the labour line. Which by the way, pretty much leaves Haigh’s in Australia…

    • This Charming Mum
      May 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Oh no you’re doing the right thing with Nespresso – they can compact the collected pods and recycle them, so keep on collecting them up! It’s just the home recycling bin that’s a no go. I agree about the chocolate, too, although there are a few options now – Cadbury’s plain chocolate and a few of the local organic brands. You definitely have to shop around for it though.

  6. laney77
    May 1, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    You’re right, it’s a real cause for concern when you think of that waste piling up. But alas I am I a coffee addict and couldn’t be without my machine. Will do my best to make up for it by being conscious in other areas……..#FYBF

    • This Charming Mum
      May 2, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Yes, I’m a junkie too. I’m easing my conscience with compromise for now 😉

  7. May 1, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I love my coffee, love my pods but refilling looks like too much work… sorry I am a waster ..#FYBF

    • This Charming Mum
      May 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Ha ha, yes it does look fiddly – but at least it’s an option. I love my coffee too! 🙂

  8. Melissa {Suger}
    May 1, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    YES! This is absolutely a consideration for me. I love a pod coffee for easy of use at home but was like, whoa, that has to be a lot of rubbish… When I did a review post a while back for Nespresso (my own machine was an Aldi one first) I found ecocoffee which does the job in my Aldi machine no problem. Hope that helps!

    • This Charming Mum
      May 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Yes they seem to be leading the way, but that’s good to hear they work in the Aldi machine Melissa! I thought they were only for Nespresso. Hopefully there will soon be more stockists/manufacturers getting on board with recyclable options.

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