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Recyclable vs. Reusable: Best Coffee Pods for You

by Alex Bider 22 Oct 2020
Recyclable vs. Reusable: Best Coffee Pods for You

There is no doubt that the invention of coffee pods is an innovative achievement we all love. Now, all we have to do is pop a coffee pod into the machine and push a button. In seconds, we’d have good old steamy coffee pouring into our cup. 

However, the accompanying rise in the use of coffee pods has raised the issue of sustainability. Hence, the recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods controversy.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the global market, only trailing behind crude oil. Now, since the creation of coffee pods, that market has experienced a gigantic boom. In 2014 alone, coffee pods accounted for an impressive 34% of all coffee sales. That’s not all — these sale numbers depict that coffee pods have experienced a 133,710% growth since 2000.

If anything, these stats prove that the world loves its coffee, and many of us prefer them in pods. Sadly, the impact of our diligent use of these coffee pods is not very environmentally friendly. Every year, billions of small plastic and aluminum pods end up in various landfills. Even worse, in the best-case scenario, these materials take hundreds of years to decompose fully. Otherwise, it may take up to a thousand years.

Thankfully, diligent minds have come up with possible solutions in the form of recyclable and reusable coffee pods. However, this has sparked another debate among environmentally-conscious coffee pod lovers. Recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods, which have a better impact on the environment? 

In this article, we will help you understand which option offers the most sustainable coffee pods. But first, let us examine the life cycle of coffee pods. This way, you can better appreciate the need for sustainability.

The Average Life Cycle of a Coffee Pod

Before we look at which coffee pods are more environmentally friendly, let us examine the life cycle of one such pod. This way, you can better understand why sustainability is crucial. Here is a description of the stages of the life cycle of a coffee pod.

Supply of materials

The first step in coffee pod production is the supply of essential materials. This includes the coffee itself and the materials of the pod – plastic, aluminum, and paper. Generally, coffee comes from a region known as the ‘coffee belt.’ This region comprises majorly developing countries and is primarily responsible for most of the coffee we drink.

These coffee belt countries grow coffee beans, roast, and ground them. Then, they transport them to the coffee pod company. Also, the producing company must receive the delivery of raw materials. These depend on the type of pods. Typically though, these include aluminum, plastic, and paper. Once these essential materials are on site, the production of coffee pods can begin.


This process involves the fabrication of coffee pods, after which the filling of the pods with roasted coffee grounds occurs. Then, the pods go into additional packaging to facilitate shipments and retail sales. Once this is over, then the next stage in the life cycle of coffee pods commences.


The coffee pods then follow a series of shipments and transport modes to end up in various warehouses and distribution centres. Of course, the goal here is to make them widely available so that consumers can buy coffee pods when they want. 

So, marketers also sell their coffee pods through online stores and offer door-step deliveries. On the whole, there are several distribution channels through which coffee pods arrive at their final consumers.


This stage needs no introduction as it is an activity we are all familiar with. You take the coffee pod from its packet and slot it into a compatible machine. The machine does its thing, and presto, you have a single-serve of coffee dripping into your cup. 


Now, this is where the problem lies. Since most coffee pods are single-use, they end up in the trash cans after usage. While this seems like a very logical thing to do, it is hurting the environment. Far too many coffee pods were ending up in landfills all over the world. If that’s enough to alarm you, here’s more – pods take centuries to decompose fully.

At that rate of disposal and decomposition, the greener thing to do would have been to discontinue the use of coffee pods. Thankfully, we don’t have to face that reality. Today, we now have more sustainable ways to use coffee pods. This means we don’t have to choose between enjoying coffee pods and being conscious of the environment.

Although there are several sustainable options, two stand out for most – recyclable coffee pods and reusable coffee pods. However, many have managed to blur the line between the two. Hence, questions such as ‘Are recyclable and reusable coffee pods the same?’ While others are more curious about which of the coffee pods are more sustainable, recyclable vs. reusable.

Not to worry, we’ll answer all your questions in the course of this article.

Related article: The Amazing Benefits of Coffee Pods for Your Skin

Are Recyclable and Reusable Coffee Pods the Same?

Right off the bat, the answer is no. While both recyclable and reusable coffee pods share a purpose of greater environmental sustainability, they are distinctively different. Don’t worry. This blog post will help you understand the differences between these two. Also, we will highlight the type of coffee pods that are the most sustainable.

We have established that single-use coffee pods are decidedly bad for our environments. So, to reduce waste and leave fewer carbon footprints, many manufacturers have resorted to greener options. These options include:

  • Compostable coffee pods
  • Biodegradable coffee pods
  • Reusable coffee pods
  • And of course, recyclable coffee pods

However, this article will focus on the recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods debate. Keep reading to find out precisely what these pods are and how they impact the environment.

What Are Recyclable Coffee Pods?

As the name implies, these coffee pods offer you the opportunity to recycle after use. This means that the manufacturing company can then pick up the now empty containers, refine and reuse them. 

If you feel guilty about your contribution to environmental pollution, it offers you a chance at redemption. All you have to do is ensure that the coffee pods you use end up in the right recycling drop-off.

Depending on the coffee pods’ material, recycling is a great way to keep pods away from landfills. But, it is more effective for aluminum pods. Unlike plastic, aluminum coffee pods can go through multiple recycling processes without losing quality. Plastic, on the other hand, can only handle two recycles before they become useless.

Furthermore, there is another catch. While recyclable coffee pods sound like an excellent idea, in theory, it is not very practical for several reasons. You see, coffee pods are generally too small for domestic recycling bins. Therefore, you will need to drop them off at designated collection points. These locations are often few and far between, and most people don’t think it’s worth the hassle.

As a result, more coffee pods end up in the trash and, consequently, a landfill. Moreover, the process of recycling coffee pods (both aluminum and plastic) is not very straightforward. Indeed, some brands require you to disassemble and clean the pods before recycling. If the stats are any indication, most people do not have the patience to go through this process.

There’s also the issue of the energy and resources which go into transporting recycled pods to a recycling facility. All-in-all, recyclable pods may not be the most sustainable option for coffee pods. To help you gain a better perspective in this recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods debate, let us paint you a picture. Here’s what happens when you buy and recycle coffee pods.

Recyclable Coffee Pods: What Happens When You Recycle

The actual process of recycling coffee pods is not as simple as it sounds. It is undoubtedly more complicated than just cleansing and reusing the pods.

After the tenuous process of collecting used coffee pods, they go to a recycling facility for sorting. These pods then undergo shredding to separate the coffee grounds from the plastic and aluminum components. Then, the aluminum goes through fire and melts so that it becomes recyclable. In the end, the separated coffee pods become compost.

However, the above is only an optimistic approach as the entire process rarely goes so smoothly. The main problem is the size of coffee pods. The design of recycling machines only allows for bottles, boxes and larger containers – not the small sizes of pods. As a result, the sorting streams are unable to separate the coffee pods effectively.

In other words, most plastic coffee pods that have aluminum lining are not recyclable at all. Sad, right?

Surprisingly, the small sizes of coffee pods are not the only challenges. Costs and high-energy consumption of the recycling process are relevant worries too. Although aluminum is lighter than steel, it needs more energy to split its oxygen bonds and melt it down. Due to this, the process produces a lot more heat and, consequently, higher carbon emissions.

There is also the fact that higher energy translates to more significant expenses. 

While recyclable coffee pods sound noble, its energy-intensive and costly process does not make it a sustainable solution. You’ll agree that the fact that it leaves such a big carbon footprint in its wake is an evident red flag. In simpler terms, recyclable coffee pods are not the best for the environment. This brings us to the other side of this recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods argument.

What Are Reusable Coffee Pods?

Reusable coffee pods are exactly what they sound like – pods you can use again and again. 

You see, most coffee companies that tout their pods as being recyclable are, in fact, being truthful. However, it is the methods of collection and recycling that make them so unsustainable. The resources that recyclable coffee pods require make it a somewhat irresponsible endeavour.

On the flip side, reusable coffee pods do not share these system complications. Reusable coffee pods typically have a strong aluminum body, which makes them practical for multiple uses. Indeed, these pods are capable of lasting a lifetime with proper care. All you need is to keep refilling them with your choice of coffee grounds, and you’re good to go.

Reusable coffee pods in Canada are hands-down, the most sustainable coffee pods. Indeed, no single-use products can compare to their minimal environmental impact – not even biodegradable or compostable coffee pods. You see, consuming less in all aspects of life is one significant way to reduce our carbon footprints. This is also one of the vital advantages of reusable coffee pods.

By reusing your coffee pods, all your cups of coffee become more sustainable. This singular point makes reusable coffee pods great for the environment. We can simply end the recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods debate here in favour of reusable. But there’s more.

Reusable coffee pods also consume the least human and physical resources. Indeed, all it takes is the first production, and you’re good to go for years. This means you significantly reduce the carbon emissions you’d be otherwise responsible for with single-use coffee pods. In other words, you can enjoy your beloved cup of coffee with considerably less guilt.

By now, you should only be looking to buy reusable coffee pods from online stores or otherwise. However, if you still wonder which is the most sustainable option in the recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods controversy, don’t stop reading.

Recyclable vs. Reusable Coffee Pods: Which Is More Sustainable?

If you have ever browsed through the coffee pod section of a supermarket, you’ll likely see many coffee brands touting many ‘green’ labels. Some may claim to be compostable coffee pods, while others may claim to be biodegradable or recyclable. However, none of these other options are entirely as sustainable as reusable coffee pods.

Are you wondering why you should choose reusable coffee pods? Perhaps you’re wondering which coffee pods are great for the environment. If you fall in either category, you’re in the right place.

Earlier in this article, we established that recyclable coffee pods are a possible alternative to landfills. This begs the question of the more sustainable option in the recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods debate. Rather than provide you with a straight answer, we’ll show you some simple facts. Then you’d know what type of coffee pods you should buy in Canada.

First off, reusable coffee pods do not need any recycling process or decomposition. In other words, they don’t require any special composting conditions or potentially dangerous chemical treatment. They also defeat the need for specific packaging or endless streams of production.

This is quite unlike the compostable, biodegradable and recyclable coffee pods, which require specialized processes. Furthermore, these types of coffee pods also need additional resources to convert them to by-products. In other words, more human effort, energy and time go into preventing these coffee pods from ending up in landfills.

While the thoughts behind the actions are honourable, the impact on the environment may not be so kind. Also, reusable coffee pods do not emit methane or decompose into microplastics, which are harmful to the environment. This is because the reusable coffee pods feature an entirely metallic body. 

Moreover, one household can use the same coffee pod for years before there is a need to change it. By comparison, such actions lead to the least amount of carbon emissions in terms of coffee pods.

By now, you have probably figured out that the best way to minimize waste is to eliminate unnecessary plastic purchases. Reusable coffee pods conveniently fulfil this need. Indeed, with these pods, you can enjoy an almost, if not entirely, waste-free coffee drinking habit. Even the coffee grounds can go into compost in your backyard!

In essence, reusable coffee pods are the most sustainable coffee pods. Hopefully, you now know why you should choose these coffee pods. In case you’re still undecided, here are more points for you.

More on Why You Use Reusable Coffee Pods

If anything, this recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods debate has shown why recyclable pods are the best. However, their sustainability is one of the only reasons that make them ideal for us. The following reasons act as extra incentives for you to buy and use reusable coffee pods:

They are cost-effective

Granted, the upfront cost of reusable coffee pods is more expensive than single-use pods. But, in the long run, reusing your coffee pods will save you a ton of money! Let’s break it down, so you see the bigger picture.

On average, most single-use coffee pods cost around $0.5 and usually contain about 5.5g of coffee. At this rate, if you drink three coffee cups per day, your total yearly spending will amount to about $383.25. Remember, this number is just for you. It doesn’t account for the coffee consumption of family members and friends when they come over.

On the other hand, a reusable coffee pod can save you much more money. With 1kg of ground coffee at $15, you can brew at least 200 cups of coffee (using 5g pods). With that calculation, each cup of coffee your drink costs only about $0.075. 

At the rate of three coffees, in a year, you’d only spend about $82 on coffee. Assuming you buy your reusable coffee pods at $10, your total spending is still $100! Indeed, these pods offer you the best of both worlds – you get to be more sustainable and save money at the same time.

They allow you more coffee flexibility

With single-use coffee pods, you are stuck with whatever the manufacturer packs into the pod you buy. In other words, you have no real control over the taste of your brew. While this may be convenient for some, other people may find it distasteful.

However, reusable coffee pods allow you to follow your heart desires regarding the coffee you want. You can choose to buy your favourite roast or maybe a packet of beans from the supermarket. You can even decide to start roasting your coffee, although we find this rather unlikely. Whichever decision you make, reusable coffee pods allow you to explore a world of coffee flavours.

You are free to choose your coffee based on bean quality, roast freshness or other personal criteria. 

They allow for budget flexibility

Not only are reusable coffee pods more pocket-friendly, but they also mean you can adjust your budget accordingly. You see, after the one-off purchase of your coffee pod, you can tailor the rest of your spending according to your budget. You may choose to buy smaller bags of coffee grounds if your budget is a bit tight. If you can afford it, you may opt for larger loads.

Different suppliers also offer their coffee at various prices based on the quality, processing method, and other such criteria. This means that some may be more expensive than others. With reusable coffee pods, you don’t have to worry about buying a product that is not convenient. You can simply purchase the coffee roasts that meet your requirements in both quality and price.

Quick Tips on How to Use Reusable Coffee Pods

Now that we have your attention, let us give you a few tips on using reusable coffee pods. This way, when you make the transition to these sustainable pods, it’ll go smoothly. The process is indeed very straightforward:

  • Open the coffee pod
  • Then, fill the pod with ground coffee until you reach maximum capacity.
  • As soon as the coffee pod is full, pack it with a tamper. Or you can use a cork. This ensures that the coffee grounds stay in the pod during brewing.
  • Next, you can use the pod as you’d typically will. Slot into the coffee pod machine and hit the brew button.
  • In less than a minute, you’d have your coffee pouring out into your coffee.
  • You can wait for some time to let the pod cool down. Take it out and remove the cork. Then, get rid of the coffee grounds (you can turn it into compost) and then rinse out the pod.
  • The coffee pod is ready for another use.

Wrapping It All Up

Due to the impact of waste coffee pods on our environment, we all need to become more ecologically conscious. This means opting for a more sustainable means of brewing and drinking coffee when we can. Hopefully, this recyclable vs. reusable coffee pods article has been able to point you in the right direction. Reusable coffee pods are not only convenient for you but are great for the environment.

Do you want to make the switch to more sustainable coffee pods?  Check out our online store for coffee pods. Or send us a message to make an order.

Related article: The Green Effects of Coffee Pods

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