Coffee pod craze brewing an environmental disaster?

Coffee pod craze brewing an environmental disaster?

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Vaidehi Shah
A normal day at the office turns apocalyptic when a Godzilla-like monster made of coffee capsules invades a city, destroying property and crushing citizens underfoot. Alien spaceships bearing an uncanny resemblance to coffee pods shoot citizens and armies with capsules-turned-bullets.
These scenes from a video campaign called “Kill the K-cup” – the brand name for coffee pods made by American company Keurig – might be confined to the realm of fiction, but the waste footprint of these disposable pods is all too real.
In 2013, the number of coffee pods made by one company alone – America-based Keurig Green Mountain – was a staggering 8.3 billion, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. Factor in the pods made by other companies and the number becomes mind-blowing.The growing popularity of such pods in homes, offices, and even Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide has fuelled concerns about the amount of waste generated.
Popular machine makers include Swiss food giant Nestlé’s Nespresso and Dolce Gusto lines, American coffee chains Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Italian coffee firm Illy.
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Worldwide sales of coffee pod machines have more than doubled from 11 million in 2009 to 29.2 million last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor. In Asia Pacific, 1.1 million units were sold last year, three times as many as in 2009.
In affluent cities like Singapore and Hong Kong, 66,900 and 21,300 machines were sold last year respectively. In Singapore, that is a six-fold increase from the 9,700 machines sold in 2009.
Correspondingly, the global coffee pod market’s value jumped from US$5.3 billion in 2010 to US$13.2 billion in 2014. This is set to climb to US$18.3 billion by 2019, said Euromonitor.
Market research firm Mintel also found that Asia – where waste recycling capabilities are lagging behind the consumption patterns of a growing affluent class – is the world’s second-most valuable coffee market, after Western Europe.
While brands such as Keurig and Starbucks do not have a large presence in Asia Pacific, Nestlé’s Nespresso and Dolce Gusto and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are growing in popularity and are among the commonly available models in the region.
Killing the coffee pod waste monster
These companies vary widely in how they make their pods and their efforts to minimise the waste they cause. – Source: Eco-Business

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