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Can I Recycle Coffee Pods?

by Alex Bider 18 Nov 2020
Can I Recycle Coffee Pods?

Today, many people are turning towards more sustainable options of living and interacting with the environment. This is nothing short of admirable. Thankfully, coffee pods are not behind in the move towards ensuring greener earth. An increasing number of coffee lovers are looking into how they can recycle coffee pods after use. Not to worry, we'll tell you all you need to know.

There's no better time to focus on the issue of sustainability concerning the use of coffee pods. After all, coffee has effectively secured its place as the second most traded commodity in the entire world. Not just that, at least 40% of coffee sales every year is through coffee pods, and that percentage keeps rising! In other words, an impressive number of people use coffee pods worldwide.

Therefore, if we don't consider more sustainable means of consuming coffee through pods, the effects can quickly become dangerous. While the environment may be the first to suffer the negative consequences, eventually, humans will too.

Fortunately, coffee pods recycling initiatives now exist. So, you can enjoy your coffee from pods without worry about the adverse effects your actions may have on the environment. However, this is only if you make conscious efforts to recycle these pods. Therefore, if you're wondering, 'can I recycle coffee pods?' there is no doubt that this is where you need to be.

In this article, we'll answer all your questions on the issue of whether or not to recycle coffee pods. However, recycling coffee pods is not as straightforward as other materials. So, to ensure that you get it right, we'll share some pro tips on how to recycle coffee pods. But first, let us take a look into the window to the past and see how coffee pods came to be.

A Little On the History of Coffee Pods

A few years ago, in 2018, a breathtaking 59 billion coffee pods came off various manufacturing companies' production lines. In that same year, the value of the worldwide coffee pod industry was approximately 1.3 billion USD. Impressive numbers, right? It only stands to prove that the use of coffee pods has undoubtedly become a global trend.

You can now buy coffee pods in Canada at literally every supermarket (although it may be better to carefully choose quality products). However, coffee pods have not always been this popular. Let's see how far these convenient and satisfying wonders have come.

Do you know that the coffee pod market is four decades old, at the very least? Yes, the production of coffee pods started in 1986. Whoosh! However, the sale of these pods did not begin to boom until the late '90s. Indeed, at that time, many people had started to see the various advantages that the use of coffee pods offered them.

Fast forward to a couple of years later. Everybody seems to have heard about coffee pods. More importantly, a significant percentage of these people are using these pods. Therefore, if the stats are any indication, the coffee pod market is still on the rise and does not show any plans to slow down. Well, we're not complaining as these pods certainly offer their money's worth, in most cases.

Moreover, advancement in technology has added fuel to the ongoing rave about coffee pods. Not only has agricultural innovations increased the quality of coffee beans, but packaging techniques have also improved. Today, coffee pods are considerably less likely to fail in the machines. Also, hermetic sealing techniques ensure that the pods' contents do not go stale as fast they used to.

Indeed, coffee pods have come a long way since their debut in '86. To give you a clearer picture of this progress, let us examine the growing popularity of coffee pods in terms of numbers.

Related article: Coffee Pods vs. Ground Coffee: Which is Best?

Coffee Pods and Their Growing Popularity

Before we dive into whether you should recycle coffee pods or not, let us explore these pods' growth rates. This way, you can truly understand the need for coffee pod recycling and other sustainable options.

In the last decade, the world has experienced an upsurge in the consumption of coffee. However, that is not the most surprising part. Over the past couple of years, coffee pod sales have been increasing steadily at 9% globally. Even more, between 2011 and 2013, the sale of single-use coffee pods tripled! Undoubtedly, this is quite an impressive growth rate.

However, this number is even more impressive because the general coffee industry is only growing at 1.6% per annum. A few years back, in 2014, 34% of the total coffee sales were through coffee pods.

Furthermore, in 2016, coffee pods accounted for a third of coffee sales in Europe. In the United States, coffee pod machines are now the second-most preferred method of home brewing. The narrative is not so different in other regions too. Indeed, one in three people is likely to buy coffee pods for personal consumption in Canada.

For most people, coffee pods offered a solution to many of the problems they had with brewing coffee. For one, pods made obtaining their daily doses of coffee so much more convenient. Indeed, all you had to do was slot a pod into a compatible machine and push a button. In seconds, you'd have your beloved coffee pouring out into your cup.

There's also the fact that you don't need any special brewing skills to prepare a cup of Joe. So, no learning curves! Besides, eliminating specialized skills meant that you can't ruin your coffee by brewing it poorly. A win-win, if you ask us. However, the convenience and speed of coffee pods are only a few of the many reasons it has become so popular. 

From these stats, it is apparent that coffee pods have started a revolution in the coffee-drinking world. However, there is one critical drawback. Our passionate purchase and use of coffee pods mean one thing. Manufacturers are using an increasing amount of energy to grow coffee beans and make the pods.

Not to mention the tons of coffee pods that go into the trash every day worldwide. Thankfully there are now some solutions, one of which is to recycle coffee pods. 

Yes, recycling coffee pods can indeed reduce our carbon footprint and contribute towards a greener earth. But, before we dive into this, let us see how the use of these pods has impacted our environment.

The Impact of Coffee Pods on the Environment

Before we answer the 'can I recycle coffee pods?' question, here are some facts for you to think about. We find that they may help spur you to make a quick decision after you finish this article.

When you use only a few small coffee pods a day, it may be difficult to imagine how they can constitute an environmental problem. But, if you examine the use of coffee pods on a global level, the picture suddenly becomes more explicit.

According to research, every minute, approximately 39,000 coffee pods come off production lines all around the world. Now, if you are an advocate for a greener earth, here's the part that may make you cringe. In the same minute, about 29,000 pods end up in landfills. This means that a shocking 15 billion used coffee pods make a home in various landfills around the world in a year.

Indeed, with this amount of waste pods, if you were to try), you could wrap coffee pods around the globe at least 26 times. Or better still, think about these pods as a towering 'un-green' mountain. To worsen the situation, most coffee pods have aluminum and plastic bodies which are non-biodegradable. In other words, in the best-case scenario, each pod will take 500 years to decompose.

The simple conclusion is that the manufacturing process, use, and wasteful disposal of coffee pods are not very environmentally-friendly.

With these thoughts in mind, there is no doubt that we have to do better in terms of coffee pod sustainability. Before you panic, you will not have to quit your use of coffee pods.

Yes, we said it. You can buy coffee pods in Canada, drink from them, and still have you green earth. All it takes is some more effort on part. You will have to take the necessary steps to recycle your coffee pods after use. However, considering all the benefits of coffee pods, this is a small price to pay to reduce your carbon footprints.

Now, it is time to address the elephant in the room – to recycle coffee pods or not.

Can I Recycle Coffee Pods?

Right off the bat, the answer is, 'Yes, you can recycle coffee pods.' We enthusiastically recommend that you do so.

Although a significant percentage of coffee pods are non-biodegradable, they don't need to go to a landfill after use. Indeed, there are many ways you can recycle these pods.

Thankfully, an increasing number of coffee pod manufacturers see the need to contribute towards better sustainability. So, most of them ensure the materials they make their pods with are recyclable. Some of them have even created initiatives that include special containers and pod recycling drop-off points.

Depending on the brand of coffee pods you buy in Canada, you may even enjoy home pickups!

Indeed, if you cannot recycle these pods on your own, or perhaps your county does not have a recycling center, there are still more options for you. 

You can research recycling centers online to find the one closest to you. Then, you can mail them your used coffee pods so they can help you recycle them. Some pod manufacturers even offer similar services.

Therefore, if you've been wondering whether or not you can recycle coffee pods is an option, you have your answer now.

However, sometimes recycling coffee pods may not always be a seamless, straightforward task. This is because most coffee pods are not the product of one homogenous material. Instead, manufacturers combine four primary materials to make a pod – aluminum, plastic, a paper filter, and of course, the coffee itself (organic).

The Need for a Dedicated Centre

Moreover, coffee pods require a dedicated recycling center for pods. This is because the typical solid waste recycling centers cannot deal with the small sizes of pods. Unlike bottles, cans, and other similar recyclables, coffee pods will fall through the recycling centers' filtering screen. If this happens, they become a contaminant in the recycling system.

This leads us to some of the significant problems coffee pod recyclers face. For one, some users do not take the time to separate coffee pod components properly before recycling them. This complicates the recycling process as they cannot recycle some materials together, say aluminum and plastic. Other times, coffee pod consumers simply trash the pods without recycling.

The truth is, more often than not, you will need to separate the components of coffee pods before recycling. Not to worry, it is not a complicated process. In a few moments, we'll walk you through the steps on how to recycle coffee pods.

How to Recycle Coffee Pods

Before you jump on the coffee pod recycling team, there are few things you must know. This way, when we finally dive into our tips on how to recycle coffee pods, you can relate better.

The first thing you should understand is that depending on the manufacturer, each coffee pod comes out unique. While some pods have a polypropylene plastic (plastic 5) body, others feature aluminum. 

Some manufacturers also make their coffee pods from plastic number 7, which includes everything from acrylic to polycarbonate and polylactic fibres.

Most towns accept plastic 5 in their recycling centers, but only a few can process plastic 7. On the other hand, there is little to no discrimination when it comes to aluminum coffee pods. Depending on the coffee pod brands you buy, there may be specialized processes for recycling their products.

That said, let us examine the typical steps on how to recycle coffee pods. Bear in mind this step-by-step guide begins after you brew your coffee with the pod. So, here's what you need to do:

Let it cool down

The first step on the road to recycling your coffee pods is to let cool down. Due to the heating and high-pressure process of brewing the coffee, the pods can get very hot. So, to avoid burning your hands, we suggest letting the pod cool entirely before you try removing it. 

This may take anywhere between a couple of minutes and half an hour. But trust us, it's worth the wait if you don't burn yourself. 

Remove it and peel it

This step is as straightforward as they come. After ensuring the pod has cooled sufficiently, you may then take it out of the machine. Once it is out, peel off the aluminum foil on top of the pod. You can straightaway toss this into your container for aluminum recyclables. In other words, you've begun your journey to ensuring green earth.

Empty the pod

If you have never removed the cover of coffee pods, you may not know this. But, after brewing your cup of Joe, the pod retains the used coffee grounds. You will need to get these out before you send the pods to the recycling center. 

While you can simply empty the grounds into the trash, there are ways you can make them useful once again.

Used coffee grounds can function as compost in your backyard. So, you can gather them up and mix them into your compost heap, thereby giving back to the earth. Otherwise, pack the grounds into recycle bags and send them off to a compost recycling center. 

Either way, it may not be best to waste the used coffee grounds when they can be useful elsewhere.

Separate the components

Depending on the brand of coffee pods you buy, you may or may not need to skip this step. However, if your pods contain both aluminum and plastic parts, this step is essential to your recycling process.

To properly recycle coffee pods, you need to separate the aluminum from the plastic. Otherwise, you'll complicate the process down at the recycling center. You see, plastic and aluminum do not undergo the same refining process. 

Moreover, since recycling centers carry out their work in large bulks, it may be impossible to spot pods with 'impurities.' Therefore, if you want to ensure optimal coffee pod recycling, please take your time to separate your pods' components.

Recycle the pods

Finally, on how to recycle coffee pods – the actual recycling. Depending on where you live, you may have the option of home recyclables pickups or taking it to a collection site. Whichever the case may be, pack up the plastics into a separate container or nylon. Then, seal the aluminum components of your pods into a separate bag.

Once you've done this, deliver them to the appropriate sites for recycling. There, you will have reduced your carbon footprints and made the environment more sustainable for us all! The recycling companies can then take things up from there by refining and repurposing the materials you recycle.

With respect to coffee pod recycling, here are some other points you should note:

  • No matter which coffee pod brand you use, always abide by the recycling and composting laws in your locale.
  • It is never a good idea to toss recyclables into the trash as you will only contribute to toxic landfills.
  • Always take care to place the correct items in corresponding recycle bins. Otherwise, you'll be doing the recycling center a disfavour.

Understandably, recycling coffee pods (and every other recyclable) will take some extra time and effort on your part. But, you can take solace in the fact that you're preserving the earth for generations to come.

Coffee Pods: How to Repurpose Them

What happens when you want to recycle coffee pods but your local community lacks the necessary resources? Do you just give up and start sending all the pods you use to a landfill? No, there is an alternative! There are several creative ways you repurpose empty coffee pods in your home and even the workplace. 

These tips are particularly useful if you have an artsy, experimental side. Nonetheless, here are some ways you can ensure empty coffee pods do not go to waste.

Use them for bath bombs

Are you wondering how to repurpose coffee pods? Here is an excellent starter for you. You can use them as moulds for bath bombs. Indeed, since coffee pods already help you wake up and get a head-start on your day, why not let them help you relax? 

By using a simple DIY trick, you can create up to a week's worth of bath bombs in minutes.

  • All you need to do is first remove the filters on the pods. 
  • Then, pour the ingredients of your bath bomb into the empty pod and let them set over the night. 
  • When you're ready to bathe, simply peel the mix from the pods and step into the shower.

Make frozen treats with your empty pods

Another way you can repurpose empty coffee pods is to use them to make frozen food. In this case, your imagination is your limit. You can fill the pods with juice or even a Popsicle stick to make a pod popsicle. Or better still, fill it with coffee and freeze it to make, “iced 'coffee-sicle.'

On the other hand, you can also put some herb-butter in empty pods and freeze them until whenever you need them. 

Indeed, the list of frozen treats you can create is endless. If you have a hangout, empty coffee pods are the perfect moulds for super-sized ice 'cubes.' Jello shots and mixed punch are also other ideas you can experiment with.

Use them as holders for loose change

Almost everybody has a 'mountain' of loose change lying around somewhere in the house. Or perhaps they lay at the bottom of your purse, waiting for the day of reckoning. 

Well, that day is today. It's time to finally sort out that loose change, and empty coffee pods can help you. Grab a clean empty coffee pod and divvy up your change into them.

This can even help you keep track of how much change you have so you can convert them into bills. You may keep coffee pods at strategic locations so you can empty your change from the day's work into them. Maybe, even a specific pod for each value of a coin. At least, if you cannot recycle your coffee pods, they can still be useful.

Let your kids have fun with them

Do you have kids running around the house? Here's a fun way to keep them engaged. You probably already know that kids are one of the most creative classes of humans. 

Why not allow their innovative trains to run by keeping them a set of empty coffee pods? Just make sure you clean out these pods before you give them.

Then sit and back enjoy watching the kids play. You can even suggest some games for them, such as sandboxes and water tables. They can even stack them to create cool coffee pods structures. Just make sure you help them pack up when they're done such that they don't litter the house.

You can decorate your home with coffee-pod string lights

You can't recycle your coffee pods? No problem. You can quickly transform them into decorative elements such as string lights. Whether you want to give your outdoor areas or a child's bedroom a colourful lift, coffee pods can help you achieve that. You can even save them until the holiday seasons and whip them out for a dramatic lighting effect.

All you'd have to do is make a hole at the pods' bottom and pass the lights through them. As soon as you have a satisfactory amount of bulbs, tie up the wire ends to make sure they don't fall through. Then, you can hand your DIY light decorations wherever you want! Besides, even without bulbs, strings of empty coffee pods (with some paint) can make for pretty, quirky décor.

Use the pods as seed starters

Finally, an excellent way to repurpose used coffee pods is to use them to birth new life. Yes, you can use your empty pods as a miniature planter. Some soil and a few seeds of, say, peas, and your plants will start sprouting. Don't forget to convert used coffee grounds to compost for your new plants. When the plants get bigger, you can then move them to a more size-appropriate home.

A bonus point is to use your clean, empty coffee pods as a container for small oddities. Items such as buttons, paper clips, bobby pins, and more are an excellent fit for these pods. Assign a pod for each class of items. Trust us. You'll be grateful when next you're in a hurry and searching for such small miscellaneous objects.

Wrap Up

If you made it to this point, you've taken a giant step towards ensuring a more sustainable environment. Hopefully, you now know that you can indeed recycle coffee pods. 

Furthermore, we hope that you've discovered some insight into how to recycle these pods. Remember, we are all responsible for preserving this green earth. Therefore, recycling coffee pods is not only the duty of the manufacturer. You have to play your part too. 

Here at Invigo Coffee, we are committed to a greener earth. As such we only make coffee pods that are recyclable and easy to repurpose. Check out our online store for coffee pods today!

Related article: Know About Grind Size for Coffee Pods

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