Have you heard of coffee pods yet?
They’re becoming super popular in the US and Europe right now.
- According to data from market research firm Euromonitor, coffee pod machines sales have multiplied by more than six times over the past six years, from 1.8 million in 2008 to 11.6 million in 2013.
- As of last year, 13% of Americans drank a coffee made in a single-cup brewer each day, according to a survey by the National Coffee Association.
- K-Cups alone, have more than tripled since 2011, according to MarketWatch.
- K-Cups alone now account for more than a quarter of the US market for ground coffee.
Meanwhile, drip coffee maker sales have been pretty stagnant.
And it’s not just the US – pod machines sales outsold that of drip coffee markers in Western Europe for the first time last year.
According to Kantar World Panel, Britons have spent a whopping £56.1 million (that’s ~$91 million USD) from 2012 and 2013, equalling about 186 million capsules.
Which, of course, is fantastic for the coffee pod makers’ pockets. Green Mountain, which acquired Keurig back in 2006, netted nearly half a billion dollars last year – most of which came from selling K-Cups and K-Cup machines.
Nestle made 30% on its Nespresso coffee pods, and has sold more than 27 billion pods worldwide as of 2012.
The machines can be found in many offices, apartment buildings, hotels and even in over 700 Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.
Environmentally Unfriendldy Coffee Pods
But, of course, this isn’t about how great the coffee pod industry is doing. It’s about the down side of the industry.
Consider that waste from coffee pods can circle the world nearly 11 times, and only 5% of Green Mountain coffee pods are currently recyclable.
That’s 95% of pods that are sitting in our environment, not degrading.
Kind of ridiculous when you consider that Green Mountain sells fair trade organic coffee.
Plastic Used May Not Be Safe
What’s more, the #7 plastic blend is BPA-free, but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. That means that even if the plastic somehow disappears (because you know, magic) then, as Mother Jones has written:
“One concern with this plastic mix is the presence of polystyrene, containing the chemical styrene, which Hoover warns is especially worrisome for workers. A possible carcinogen, styrene can wreak havoc on the nervous systems of those handling it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”.
Green Mountain wouldn’t comment on what kind of plastic goes into its #7 blend of plastic.
The company is aware of the issue with its wasteful K-Cups, and has vowed in its sustainability report to make all of its pods recyclable by 2020 (strange that it should take so long).
There are obviously much more environmentally friendly ways to get coffee, like, you know… Using a washable mug.
And if you weren’t already convinced to head back to your standard brew, the New York times did a comprehensive breakdown of exactly how much the disposable cups cost you! (About $50 a pound, even for the cheapest brands).