Why I Don’t Use Pod Coffee

As a Melburnian it’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of coffee, however there’s one form of coffee I have chosen not to use and that’s pod coffee. I know this might be a contentious opinion, and I can definitely understand the appeal of pod coffee – it’s cheaper than going to a cafe, better than instant coffee and much easier than fancy machines – but even all that isn’t enough for me! So today, I wanted to share with you why I don’t use pod coffee.

This doesn’t mean I’m passing judgement on people that do drink pod coffee, far from it! I just thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on the rise of pod coffee and the impact it’s having on our environment, in case it helps anyone currently thinking about buying a coffee machine.

Why I Don't Use Pod Coffee

Not that many years ago coffee pods didn’t even exist, and now we’re churning through billions every year (28 billion nespresso pods were reportedly sold worldwide in 2013, yes you read that right!), and the number is growing rapidly every year. Australians are apparently using between 2.5 – 3 million pods every single day, which adds up pretty quickly!

For me, there’s two problems with this, their production and their disposal.

Production of Pod Coffee

Coffee pods are generally made out of either plastic and/or aluminium, both of which require energy to produce. Aluminium is particularly energy hungry, requiring nine times the amount of energy to produce as steel, and given how many are being produced that equates to a lot of additional energy usage.

There are also questions about the sourcing of the coffee that goes into some of these pods, with not all of the brands using certified fair trade coffee. This means that there is a lot of coffee being produced for these pods in circumstances where we can’t be sure the farmers are getting paid a fair price, and are being treated ethically.

Disposal of Pod Coffee

A large proportion of the coffee pods being sold at the moment are not able to be recycled in our general recycling bins as they are either made from a composite plastic which is not recyclable, or they are too small and will get missed in the recycling plant, ending up in general waste. Even those that can be recycled first need the aluminium lid removed from the plastic pod, and the leftover coffee grounds disposed of, which doesn’t exactly fit with the convenience message the pods are selling.

Some companies like Nespresso and instash run their own recycling programs which is good in theory, however as it requires the pods to be dropped off in store, or returned when you purchase more pods online it isn’t exactly the most user-friendly system. I’m not generally a cynical person, but the lack of statistics being given by Nespresso on the percentage of pods being returned through their recycling system tends to suggest to me that it’s not all that many, because if it was they certainly would be promoting that fact. That means that up to 28 million kilos of aluminium ended up in landfill from Nespresso pods in 2013, which is a huge amount of additional waste.

As the pods can take up to 500 years to break down in landfill, they’ll be hanging around for quite some time too, and with the rate we’re adding to the pile each year this has the potential to create a huge problem with regards to where all these pods are going to go. Given we have lots of alternative ways to get our coffee this just isn’t something I can get behind.

Alternatives to Pod Coffee

Thankfully even if you already own a coffee machine that requires pods there are now biodegradable alternatives out there which are far less harmful on the environment, although they often have a shorter shelf life, so keep an eye on that. Often it is only the pod itself that is biodegradable, the lid will still need to go in your general waste and the coffee grounds can go in your compost (or be used in a number of other ways), but it’s definitely better than it all ending up in landfill! Some of the brands are available in independent supermarkets, but most you will have to order from them online directly. Links to some brands worth trying are below:

So that’s it, the reasons why I don’t use pod coffee. I hope you found this helpful!

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18 Comments on Why I Don’t Use Pod Coffee

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 14, 2015 at 8:58 am (9 years ago)

      Thanks Jo!

  1. Mumma McD.
    March 13, 2015 at 10:46 pm (9 years ago)

    I’ve been a coffee pod user (addict) since I became a mum 3 years ago. I can’t stand instant coffee, and sometimes with 2 little kids it’s just not possible to leave the house to get to a cafe.

    But I had never actually considered the environmental implications of those little pods. Shit. I don’t really want to drink my coffee with a side of enviro-guilt, so I’ll definitely be checking out those biodegradable options you’ve linked, thanks!
    Mumma McD. recently posted…Threats, lies and bribery: parenting a threenager

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 14, 2015 at 9:00 am (9 years ago)

      Yep, I can totally understand the attraction! And sometimes other factors outweigh environmental considerations for a while, and that’s okay too. Glad to hear you found this useful though, I’d love to hear what you think of the biodegradable options!

  2. Kelly Exeter
    March 13, 2015 at 11:01 pm (9 years ago)

    I love my pod coffee – but hate the waste (I know they say they can recycle them these days but still … so. much. waste)

    So I have made a compromise with myself and have one pod coffee a day … and plunger coffee otherwise.

    Hopefully one day I will be able to just give up the pod coffee totally but small steps for now
    Kelly Exeter recently posted…This week in links: Who’s responsible for the gap between perception and reality?

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 14, 2015 at 9:01 am (9 years ago)

      Sounds like you’re on the right track to me Kelly. Small steps are better than none!

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 14, 2015 at 9:02 am (9 years ago)

      Ooh I’d love a fancy coffee machine but I just don’t have the space so I make do with plunger at home. If I use good quality, freshly ground beans in my plunger it still tastes pretty delish!

  3. Jody at Six Little Hearts
    March 14, 2015 at 6:24 am (9 years ago)

    Such an informative post. I was gifted a Dolce Gusto machine to review on my blog a while back. We love the thing and my one daily pod chocolate is my day’s highlight.
    I hadn’t given much thought to the pod recycling however and now that I think about it, I should definitely be returning my pods. Hopefully with time the system will improve.
    Jody at Six Little Hearts recently posted…Cirque Du Soleil Totem Review Plus an Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour in Melbourne…

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 14, 2015 at 9:03 am (9 years ago)

      Glad to hear you found it useful Jody! I think the consumer tide is starting to turn so hopefully that will make the companies take recycling more seriously. One can only hope!

  4. Tahlia Mereditj
    March 14, 2015 at 9:14 am (9 years ago)

    Ever since you pointed the waste out to me I kind of went off the pods but I do love their convenience, particularly when it’s just me – I have a stovetop espresso pot which makes yummy coffee but I don’t need that much every day!! I’ve still been considering a pod machine for home so I’ll definitely look into the biodegradable options you’ve suggested. Thanks 🙂
    Tahlia Mereditj recently posted…Business, life and love with Lisa Messenger + a giveaway!

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 16, 2015 at 11:08 am (9 years ago)

      Oh I can totally understand the attraction for the convenience! I’d love to hear what you think of the biodegradable options if you give them a try xx

  5. look see. by naomi fenton
    March 14, 2015 at 3:34 pm (9 years ago)

    I used to have a coffee pod machine and wasn’t terribly happy with how much waste it was creating. So I swapped over to an old-school drip coffee machine. I happened to grab one in the sales for about sixty bucks. I live down the road from a local coffee roasters and they grind it fresh. I can get a small resealable bag that keeps it fresh for around ten bucks. Because I live on my own (apart from the cat but she doesn’t drink coffee), it lasts me well enough and still stays fresh. Also, what’s great is it has a timer, so you can turn it on overnight and have your coffee made when you get up. Best thing since sliced bread. (Visiting via Maxabella’s Weekend Rewind.)
    look see. by naomi fenton recently posted…autumn’s arrival | bits & pieces

      • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
        March 16, 2015 at 11:10 am (9 years ago)

        Can’t beat fresh coffee!

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 16, 2015 at 11:09 am (9 years ago)

      Ooh the idea of setting a timer overnight and having coffee ready and waiting does sound pretty appealing to me! Living down the road from a coffee roaster sounds pretty excellent as well!

  6. Rachel (Rachel's Kitchen NZ)
    March 16, 2015 at 1:06 pm (9 years ago)

    Pod coffee is not for me – no attraction what so ever – I like to be able to drink the brand of coffee that I like and to support local coffee roasters and sometimes I like to try another brand. I as you say all the rubbish that is leftover. Also I have thought you have no idea what coffee is in the silly little expensive pods. A good old espresso machine for me!
    Rachel (Rachel’s Kitchen NZ) recently posted…St Patrick’s Day Salad

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      March 16, 2015 at 7:56 pm (9 years ago)

      You sound like a lady after my own heart Rachel! Although it’s an old fashioned plunger here for me, I don’t quite have the space for an espresso machine in my apartment!


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