People just love their single-cup coffee makers… but the single serve coffee pods that most use with them have created a waste disposal issue comparable to plastic water bottles. While some waste haulers will accept these materials, they have to be clean (as we learned at our recent Twitter chat with Waste Management): if recyclers have to devote resources to emptying out the used grounds, they’re probably not worth the effort. To my knowledge, there’s not currently a solution for this dilemma; in Canada, however, Terracycle, the company that figures out ways to turn packaging into products, now offers The Zero Waste Box. This product allows users to pitch their pods, grounds and all, and ship them to the company.
Launched in August, this certainly seems like a sensible approach to dealing with this waste stream. Terracycle separates out the materials, and according to Canada’s National Post, sends the plastic to a manufacturer of plastic lumber and paving stones. Grounds go to nearby farms for composting. Sounds perfect, right?
Only if you think that a concerned consumer should be the one to pay the cost of recycling. If you, or your business, want to take advantage of the Zero Waste Box, you buy one for for $52.96 CAN from Staples or OfficeMax Grand & Toy (either online or in person). You can put any kind of used single serve pod in the box, and UPS will pick up the full box and ship it to TerraCycle. Yes, it’s convenient… but, at that price, it’s a pretty good bet that many Canadians will continue to pitch their pods in the trash.
I’m not pointing the finger at TerraCycle: they’re trying to do something with this waste stream. Rather, I agree with Leon Kaye at Triplepundit who points out that this seem like a good case for extended producer liability. I’m guessing if Keurig, Starbucks, and Nestle had to pay the cost of recycling this waste, they’d either adjust their prices accordingly, or figure out a more cost-effective means of delivering single servings of coffee. Isn’t that how the market’s supposed to work?
Of course, there is at least one other solution (that I hardly ever see mentioned): the reusable coffee pod. Why don’t these items get more love…? Got thoughts about TerraCycle’s attempt at diverting coffee pods out of the landfill, or other elements of this story? Do share…
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