Preserving the Environment

Finally! Experts Give Us Solutions to Those Wasteful Single-Cup Coffee Pods

February 13, 2014
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Finally! Experts Give Us Solutions to Those Wasteful Single-Cup Coffee Pods
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Those super convenient caffeine fixes that are taking over our kitchens and break rooms are bad for the environment. Four experts, alert enough to realize the mess this convenience has caused, may have the answers.

One in three Americans use them at home or at work. By 2016, they are expected to generate $5 billion a year in sales, according to market research estimates. Without them, you might not even be alert enough to read this.

We’re talking about single-cup coffee pods, the fastest-growing sector of the coffee industry. The caffeine fixes are superconvenient for the bleary-eyed; all you do is pop the top and toss the stump. Just like Elaine.

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But what happens when you toss that hollow pod? It doesn’t decompose like a muffin stump. Those capsules can’t be recycled, so they sit in landfills, piling up to millions of pounds in trash every year. And every year, it’s getting worse.

There’s another problem: No one has a solution — at least, not yet. So we set out to find some. In our cross-country search for coffee lovers and waste haters, here are four suggestions about what can be done to reduce the growth of these mountains of disposable coffee cups.

Darby Hoover

Senior Resource Specialist, Urban Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

“Just make a regular cup of coffee with a reusable coffee filter; wash your filter out and use it later.”

[ph]

Peter Bower

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, Barnard College

“I compost the coffee grounds when done and rinse the capsule. … The coffee is fresher and there is no trash at all.”

Valerie Thomas

Anderson Interface Associate Professor of Natural Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology

“When you’re not making coffee, turn the machine entirely off. Unplug it from the wall.”

[ph]

Morton A. Barlaz

Professor and Head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University

“Why are we just worried about K-cups? Let’s worry about bottled water, carbonated beverages and all the other applications of packaging, and not just pick on one.”

[ph]

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