Even "recyclable" coffee pods aren't
The waste problems created by pod coffee have been well covered by TreeHugger. In 2007, Lloyd Alter called pod coffee a "design for unsustainablity."
However, the scale of the problem is little discussed. Even as pod coffee makers like Keurig take steps to make their products less wasteful, billions of pods are still going to landfills. Some will scoff at the idea that the users of ultra-convenient single cup brewing systems would try to recycle the packaging, but there are other factors causing pods to end up in the trash.
Vanessa Rancaño, writing for the East Bay Express, finds that many consumers are diligently depositing their supposedly recyclable coffee pods in the right bin. But recycling facilities don't have the means to capture the small containers:
"The cups are then recyclable — in theory. The problem is the cups are too small to be captured in most recycling facilities where machinery separates objects by size and density, said Mark Oldfield, assistant director of public affairs for California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Most facilities filter out items under two-inches in diameter."Read the in-depth look at the single-cup coffee industry here.
Rancaño's "back-of-the-envelope arithmetic" conservatively estimates that 966 million pounds per year of waste from coffee pods end up in landfills. Once in the trash, the value of both the organic and inorganic materials have little chance of ever being reclaimed.