coffee pods v. the planet.

coffee pods v. the planet.
bbc: a new study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, those little single-use coffee pods might be better for the environment than regular drip coffee and other methods
  • the analysis looked at the whole life cycle of a cup of coffee, from farming to brewing to waste
  • it found that instant coffee was best for the environment, followed by coffee pods. drip coffee was the worst
  • that’s bc the production of coffee produces way more emissions than the packaging does, and drip coffee uses the most coffee. it’s even worse if ppl use too much coffee, which they do a lot
the researchers explained more in the conversation magazine: most of the emissions from your cup of coffee come from farming the coffee. pods use way less coffee, so are generally better
  • typically, the pods’ packaging emissions are balanced out by the fact that they use way less coffee on avg
  • other contributors in your coffee’s carbon footprint: water to brew, electricity to heat water, transport, etc.
  • the math on your personal emissions may be different depending on whether you can recycle your pods, whether your home electricity comes from renewables or not, and how much coffee you use
but npr had doubts: the research wasn’t peer-reviewed, and other research contradicts it. and while attention-grabbing, stories like this distract from bigger environmental issues
  • the report’s author said the point wasn’t to get people to switch to coffee pods, but to look at “the major problems with coffee consumption at the consumer level”
  • focusing on the environmental impacts of consumers ignores the role that big companies play
  • plus, other individual-level diet changes (like cutting down on meat) could have a way bigger impact than changing how you brew coffee
  • and other, peer-reviewed research found that coffee pods actually create the most emissions, bc of the manufacturing process and waste issues
mongabay: it’s hard to know how much of an environmental impact coffee pods have, bc coffee companies aren’t transparent about their recycling programs. a lot of it is prob pretty greenwashed
  • companies like keurig and nespresso tout their products’ recyclability and their own recycling programs
  • but in fact, many recycling facilities in the u.s. can’t recycle stuff smaller than 3 inches -- which the coffee cups are
  • and nespresso also refused to say how much of its pods are made w/ recycled aluminum compared to new “virgin” aluminum. new aluminum produces a ton more waste than recycled
  • there’s very, very little clear data and transparency about how these pods are recycled
wapo said no matter what the precise right answer is, we can still take the following from the research: using less coffee overall is better, and environmental harm isn’t just about the packaging
  • all the research agrees on one point: coffee production is the biggest polluter in the process. so cutting back on the amount of coffee you use will always help
  • ppl tend to focus on packaging bc it’s most visible, but it’s not always the biggest source of harm
  • and ofc it’s important to consider human behavioral factors, which are hard to account for
  • eg, if someone switches to pods, but then makes 2x as much coffee bc it’s so convenient, the environmental benefits from switching are lost
perfect daily grind says if you do use coffee pods, aluminum ones are def better for the environment than plastic. they’re way more recyclable -- and as a bonus, better at keeping your coffee fresh
  • plastic is a lot harder to recycle, while aluminum is typically recycled at pretty high rates
  • although aluminum pods are better for the environment, they often contain some amount of plastic too
  • some plastic pods are biodegradable tho, which would be better than aluminum. but many are “industrial compostable” meaning they need specific environments to biodegrade -- it won’t work on your home compost pile
and offered another reason to switch to aluminum, or even reusable stainless steel pods: when heated up, the plastic pods could be leaching harmful chemicals into your morning brew
  • a study from uconn found that brewing coffee w/ plastic pods could result in estrogenic chemicals leaching into the coffee
  • estrogenic chemicals are chemicals that mimic estrogen, and can disrupt the body’s natural hormone regulation
  • the combo of heat + pressure from the brewing process could cause these chemicals to end up in your coffee. and bc ppl often drink coffee daily, this could be a real problem
and fast company reported on a new podless alternative: the coffee ball. it’s a ball of ground coffee covered in a natural polymer film, developed by swiss company delica. no more plastic *or* aluminum!
  • the thin film is kinda like the coating on pills, meaning it can break down organically
  • a big challenge here is balancing biodegradability w/ protecting the coffee inside from oxidizing and losing flavor
  • the balls are also a little over half the price of the pods. but like the pods, the coffee balls do require their own special brewing machine
  • for now, though, they’re only available in europe