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How does capsule coffee harm the environment?


Coffee capsules are known for their ability to create relatively delicious coffee products in just a short time. Therefore, the market for this widely-used product has expanded and spread globally over the past few decades. However, according to recent research, some types of coffee capsules can be harmful to environmental health. Find out with 43 Factory Coffee Roaster!


What is capsule coffee?


Capsule coffee is coffee that has been roasted, ground finely, and compressed into packages with absorbent material. In particular, the coffee will be vacuumed to maintain the freshness of the product. When there is a need to use it, users just need to put the capsule into a specialized brewer, simple operation, and have a delicious cup of coffee.

Previously, tablet packaging was often made mainly from aluminum. Currently, many coffee companies use many other types of materials such as polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), poly, and other compounds biodegradable based on polybutylene adipate co-terephthalate (PBAT).

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Coffee capsules are convenient for one-time use


Coffee capsules can be harmful to the environment


With simple and convenient use, the coffee capsule market is quickly popular. The growing global usage of coffee capsules presents significant challenges in waste management and environmental pollution risks for the industry. According to estimates, about 1.5 billion coffee pods are discharged into the environment in the Netherlands every year, and about 53 billion pods each year in the EU. With an average wet weight of 12 grams per used capsule, this corresponds to a waste volume of 18 kton/a for the Netherlands.

In theory, recyclable materials such as aluminum and plastic could be brought to waste disposal sites for recycling, creating a new cycle. However, in reality, after use, tablets are mostly thrown together with other types of waste and brought to general waste collection systems. From here, plastic and aluminum shells can be chopped, and mixed with organic substances to be composted as fertilizer or burned, etc. This increases greenhouse gas emissions, more seriously affecting the quality of food and air quality and increasing global warming. Not to mention microplastics and metals that are difficult to decompose, and mixed during the composting process will produce toxic substances, affecting soil and underground water sources.

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Coffee capsules that are not handled properly after use can be harmful to the environment


What is the solution for coffee capsules?


According to an assessment from the Wageningen Institute for Food and Bio-based Research, using compostable coffee pods is a promising solution for ensuring environmental health. The global warming impact of compostable coffee pods is quite low. In particular, their circularity indicators are 100% in case all pellets are composted. The material is biologically derived and biodegradable, so both coffee grounds and pods can be kept in circulation through the biosphere. If compostable capsules are disposed of in municipal solid waste or lightweight packaging, they will be more easily incinerated and disposed of.

However, currently, most organic waste management industries in countries such as the Netherlands have waste collection and treatment regulations that limit the thorough disposal of compostable coffee capsules in urban organic waste. If this problem is solved, the use of biodegradable coffee capsules will provide the most circular solution. Therefore, experts recommend that the Dutch coffee industry needs to come to a common agreement between the organic waste management industry and the coffee industry. Additionally, all stakeholders, including industry, policymakers, waste managers, and local authorities should explore and thoroughly evaluate the possibilities for achieving maximum circularity for both raw materials and used coffee grounds, while minimizing impact on the environment.

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Tablet shells made from compostable plastic and aluminum can be more environmentally friendly

As we enjoy our coffee, let’s make mindful choices. Join XLIII Coffee in supporting environmentally friendly alternatives and working towards a more sustainable specialty coffee industry!

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