Instant coffee has gone high-tech. Instead of spooning some Nescafe into a cup and adding hot water, coffee pods have become mainstream. Nestle’s Nespresso was one of the first (originally released in 1986!), but imitations like K-Fee and K-Cup quickly flooded the market after popularity boomed in the last couple of years. The problem with these instant coffee machines is the amount of non-recyclable plastic waste they produce — the amount of K-Fee pods discarded last year alone could have encircled the globe 10 times over.
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The machines do have their advantages; they’re simple and cheap. With a single lever and a few buttons, Aldi’s Expressi, for example, makes sense for a busy office or a fast-paced home — all-in-one systems cost as little as $89 and individual bulbs run less than 40 cents per cup in some cases. A few cents worth of plastic and coffee grounds may not hurt your hip pocket, but over time, it can damage the planet.
Quartz demonstrates how widespread the problem is, charting the constantly rising popularity of single-serve coffee container machines. A year ago, 13 per cent of Americans used at least one single-serve coffee capsule a day, and that number is likely to have risen since then. Mother Jones says that in the case of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, 95 per cent of its capsules are non-recyclable — this figure is likely to be similar at other instant coffee capsule manufacturers.
To its credit, Green Mountain has pledged to make all its capsules recyclable before 2020 (that’s six years from now). This might go some small way to addressing this issue, at least within the US. But the data represented in Quartz’s article is symptomatic of a larger issue — the US’s, and Australia’s, newfound obsession with instant coffee pods is creating a huge amount of waste that, at the moment, is heading directly to landfill. Something needs to be done about it. [Quartz]