In Hamburg, the word for “coffee capsule machine” is “Kaffeekapselmaschine.” But it might not be used much longer.
One out of eight coffee drinkers in Germany is getting her caffeine fix from single-serving coffee products, similar to the famous Keurig K-Cup. According to the BBC, the pods make up a third of the Western European coffee market. That’s a lot of little cups being tossed in the trash, apparently enough to circle the globe a dozen times.
In Germany, some of these single serving pods are made of aluminum, which according to the city of Hamburg, causes “unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminium.” That’s why they’ve enacted a ban on coffee pods in all government buildings, hoping to reduce waste and unnecessary expense on Germany’s dime.
[Above: A much more ecologically sensitive coffee making model.]
“It’s 6g of coffee in 3g of packaging,” says Jan Dube, spokesman of the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy. “We in Hamburg thought that these shouldn’t be bought with taxpayers’ money.”
The mix of plastic and aluminum in single serve coffee cups makes them difficult to recycle, and Keurig doesn’t plan to have recyclable pods until 2020.
“No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” creator John Sylvan said. “The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers.”
Nespresso has a program where it picks up the used pods to be recycled or reused. In Germany, a lot of that material goes to the automotive industry. They claim portioned coffee cups help conserve water and energy.
**UPDATE: Keurig, who makes the K-Cup, responded to this article this morning.
The recyclability of our K-Cup pods, predominantly sold today in North America, is an issue we take very seriously and while it’s a complex challenge, we have a stated goal to have 100% of our K-Cup pods be recyclable by 2020, with an increasing number of K-Cup® pods converted to a recyclable format each year between now and 2020. To achieve our goal we are working on the design of the pods as with recycling and plastics industry experts.
On background: today, we have three types of pods that are made with polypropylene cups which are recyclable in most communities. Our Vue®, K-Carafe™, and K-Mug™ pods all work in the Keurig 2.0 system and provide a total of 65 beverage choices in the U.S. in a pod that’s recyclable today. Beyond that, we also offer a My K-Cup® reusable cartridge which enables consumers to use any coffee they choose in their Keurig brewer. Finally, we offer K-Cup® pod take-back programs for our office customers. Please visit http://keurigrecycling.com/ for more information.