Yesterday’s Energy & Environment section of The New York Times profiled the release of “EcoCup” , a single-serve coffee pod from the coffee company Mother Parkers. The cups will be filled with Higgins & Burke tea, and in the future will also be available with coffee and organic Numi tea. The can be used with Keurig K-Cup brewers, which are notorious for sending tons of trash to landfills around the country. The Times reports:
“A privately held Canadian company, Mother Parkers Tea and Coffee, is the latest business trying to address the issue with the introduction of EcoCup, a clear, recyclable pod that it hopes will gain traction in a way that other efforts to promote the use of more environmentally friendly pods have not.”
How recyclable is it? Well, the exterior is made from no. 5 plastic, which actually is not recyclable in many U.S. municipalities. The lid and filter are not recyclable at all, although the company promises to be working on a “zero waste” solution. The tea leaves and coffee grinds can go in the compost, although it's unclear how difficult it would be to disassemble the pod.
Sadly, even if your municipality has the ability to recycle no. 5 plastic, a report released this past summer found that many recycling facilities are unequipped to capture the tiny cups.
But even if the product is fully recyclable, we're still talking about a fundamentally disposable product. It’s just like plastic water bottles: we should re-use before we recycle. The energy needed to recycle a single-use coffee pod is much more wasteful than re-using a French press and composting your coffee grinds.