The simplicity of it all is what makes coffee pod machines, especially the Keurig line of automated coffee machines, so attractive. It’s plug and play in our automated, integrated, no time to dilly dally lifestyles.
According to Mother Jones from an article in march of 2014, the largest producer of coffee pods, Keurig Green Mountain, produced enough units in 2013 alone that the waste from them could circle the globe 10.5 times. That’s not counting Starbucks, McDonald’s or any other brand’s production numbers. Only 5% of them were made from recycled plastic, and the #7 plastic used in the pods are not recycled by most US cities. The SFGate provides some advice on recycling portions of your pod, but the effort trumps the convenience factor the brewer is attempting to achieve.
Then there’s the price. At anywhere from $0.40 to well over a buck per pod, the average consumer is paying the equivalent of $23-$50 per pound of coffee. The time between the actually roasting, grinding and sealing of the coffee into the pod is often a mystery, bringing freshness and quality to a place of uncertainty. Currently most local coffee roasters across the United States provide high quality single origin coffees and blends between $9-$20 per pound.
With convenience often comes consequence and in this instance the consequences seem to have a dichotomy. There is an irony and fervency that feels like I’m either the person at the end of the pirate’s plank or the one holding the sword pushing someone else out to the end. Once I’ve invested in this machine, I must use it, lest it take up a space on the pantry shelf occupied by the Walkman and the VHS automated rewind machine. Yet I can also demand that my favorite coffee purveyors produce these little landfill populators if they desire to earn my business. And many have.
The coffee procurement, importing, roasting and retail supply chain is filled with companies that have excellent records of care for the farmer and his or her family’s well-being, the environment and various miscellaneous other charities impacting the third world countries that produce the lion’s share of the world’s best coffee. Sustainability and the “farm to table” movement have strong roots in the coffee community.
So where did Keurig Green Mountain, from the beautiful state of Vermont, go awry in its plans? If you ask originator John Sylvan, it was in inventing it in the first place. He regrets having produced them and doesn’t actually own a machine amongst other insights shared in an interview published by The Atlantic in March 2015. Keurig Green Mountain regularly reiterates through its Sustainability Reports that it will produce recyclable pods by 2020, a feat Sylvan claims is “impossible” (he is no longer with the company).
So now what? If you feel guilty enough to junk the machine and go back to drip coffee brewing that’s one thing.
There is a slew of alternatives, including the reusable filters. These little gems allow you to control the freshness and grind of every cup without sacrificing the convenience of your machine. Simply dump the grounds in your compost or trash and rinse the filter. Most, including the Solofill, retail for around $20. One other convenient feature of a coffee pod machine is the ability to subscribe to a delivery service, making your caffeine delivery system fully automated. You can check out our monthly subscription delivery service, which includes coffee pod sized pre-grinding if you like it, or drop in to your nearest locally-owned coffee shop for their recommendations.
Lance Odvody is the primary owner of Bethesda Roasting Company. He’s also a Certified Sommelier and has a love for all fine beverages. He resides in Durham, North Carolina with his wife Ashley and their three sons.