Trouble brewing: the problem with pods

18th November 2020 | Eativity editors

An increasing number of Australian households and organisations are turning to coffee capsules for their daily brew. Estimates say that Aussies are using around three million coffee pods a day, with most of them going to landfill. Aluminium capsules can take up to 200 years to break down, while plastic ones can take up to 500 years to break down.

To help address this growing problem, the Australian Government has awarded funding for a new national recycling scheme for coffee capsules to a consortium led by Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. The funding will go towards the development of an industry-wide national scheme for all coffee capsules available on the domestic market.

Millions of kilos of aluminium and plastic have ended up in landfill since coffee pods came onto the market.

The project is critical to raising recycling rates, reducing organic material in landfill and increasing access to collection points for a rapidly growing waste stream, and already has the support of industry leaders including Vittoria, Kruger ANZ and Grinders Coffee.

“This program will enable Australians to enjoy their home-made espresso, knowing the product’s end-of-life is being managed responsibly,” says Paul Klymenko, Planet Ark CEO.

The funding is being provided through the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund, a $20 million fund to improve existing schemes and kickstart new ones. The fund forms part of the Australian Government’s $167 million plan to increase Australia’s recycling rates, tackle plastic waste and litter, and halve food waste by 2030.

Almost 50% of Australians own a coffee pod machine.

“Australians love their coffee, and this new scheme for coffee capsules will reduce waste going to landfill, lift recycling rates and help consumers make a practical, positive difference for the environment,” says Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans.

To execute the program, Planet Ark will lead a consortium that includes Nespresso and Woolworths. Nespresso has been running a coffee capsule recycling program in Australia for many years. Woolworths will work with the project partners to evaluate the feasibility of in-store capsule collection and subsequent transport to recycling facilities.

Nespresso runs pod recycling programs in 39 countries, including Australia.

Until the program is up and running, here are some coffee capsule recycling tips from Planet Ark:

• If you’re thinking about buying a coffee machine that uses capsules, choose a brand that has a recycling program for the used capsules.

• Supporting brands that take responsibility for the end life of their products is another way to help save waste from landfill and use it to make new products.

• Recycling via a manufacturers program like Nespresso’s can turn this waste into resources, such as turning coffee grounds into compost, while aluminium can be recycled into new products. Nespresso’s coffee capsule recycling program has more than 22,000 collection points throughout Australia. There are four easy ways to recycle the capsules:

1. Return your used capsules to your nearest Nespresso boutique.
2. Drop off used capsules at the nearest participating florist or garden drop off centre.
3. Use a bulk recycling box to collect on behalf of your workplace or community.
4. Fill your Nespresso Australia Post satchel with used capsules and return by mail.

• Check with other manufacturers to find out if they run a recycling program for their capsules. Visit Terracycle for more information on other programs, or use Planet Ark’s “Find a recycler” to find a coffee pod recycler near you.