Melitta Rolls Out Recyclable Single-Serve Coffee Pods – Is That Enough?

are recyclable single serve coffee pods enough?

We’ve taken a look at the waste issues created by single-serve coffee pods: essentially, they’re a huge black eye for a brewing method that’s otherwise pretty green. How big of one? Those coffee pods create 966 million pounds of solid waste annually. If we could figure out a way to dispose of those pods responsibly, the single-serve coffee maker would be the environmentally preferable method for home brewing by a landslide, as it already involves less energy and water waste.

Melitta USA, the US division of the 100+ year-old Melitta Group, has taken the next step: they’ve created, and are now selling, fully recyclable single-serve coffee pods. And even though they’re not available in stores everywhere yet, the demand is already keeping the company’s production lines hopping: “We are running our plant 24/7. We can’t make enough. We don’t stop on the Fourth of July, not for any holiday. We are producing every one we can possibly make,” says spokesperson Jeff Bridges.

It’s good to see a company making the move towards a greener coffee pod, but I’ve got to admit “recyclable” is a word that always makes me a bit nervous. I’m assuming this means that all of the materials used in the pod can be recycled on their own; the press release touting the new product mentions a ” an eco-friendly (composed of 100 percent recyclable polypropylene), single-serve filter that Melitta will fill with coffee.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just now toss those pods into your blue bin and know that your recycler is handling them, though. As I understand it, one of the main challenges of recycling coffee pods is the mix of materials necessarily involved: a plastic pod body, an aluminum top, and, of course, the grounds inside. Separating these materials out generally means human labor, and that means more expense for a materials recycling facility (MRF). I’m concerned that many of these pods labeled “100% recyclable” are probably still ending up in the landfill.

Of course, Melitta USA may have also met with recyclers during the design process and made sure the pods work with typical MRF machinery. I can’t say either way, as their press materials on these products don’t go into much detail beyond what I’ve shared above. If you were going to purchase from Melitta for environmental reasons, I’d still suggest their reusable e-filter, as you know for certain you’re not sending any waste to the landfill.

I’m not bashing on Melitta; I appreciate the effort on their part. But “recyclable” isn’t the same as “recycled”… and if the infrastructure isn’t there, or if consumers have to jump through too many hoops, those recyclable pods will still end up in the trash.

Know more than I do about this product? Share your thoughts with us in the comments…

via Waste Dive

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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