What do condoms, tampons, and disposable diapers have in common with coffee pods? No, we’re not suggesting you use a coffee pod when you run out of tampons. All of these things are accumulating in our landfills and adding to our major pollution and waste problem. And while condoms, tampons, and diapers are pretty darn useful, coffee pods are absolutely not, even if you’re on an hourly coffee schedule.
Now, over in Germany, the city of Hamburg has had enough of the coffee pod madness and banned the product from being used in city and government buildings. The government has put the kibosh on coffee pod use in “government-run buildings, offices and institutions like schools and universities,” reports NPR, in order to help reduce waste and energy consumption. The new, “mandatory green guidelines” will “prohibit taxpayers’ money from being spent” on these technically useless, environmentally destructive things. “A spokesman for the city said the pods contain 3 grams of waste for every 6 grams of coffee,” CNN reports.
While Nespresso pods, the coffee pod that tends to be most popular in Europe, are recyclable — the company says “it has 14,000 capsule collection points worldwide, with the capacity, at least, to recycle over 80 percent of all used capsules. The company aims to raise this to 100 percent by 2020” — other pods can’t be recycled. One such brand is Keurig’s popular K-cup. However, the company has heard environmentalists’ rally cry and plans to become 100-percent recyclable by 2020.
While coffee pod use may not seem like that big of a deal, the small, single-serve caffeine-dispensing pods are being used at the tune of 3 billion a year in Germany. And according to a survey by the National Coffee Association, “nearly 1 in 5 adults drank single-cup-brewed coffee yesterday, making it the second most popular way to brew after the traditional drip methods—and far more popular than espresso machines,” Mother Jones reports. And the stats just get worse from there, “Journalist Murray Carpenter estimates in his new book, ‘Caffeinated,’ that a row of all the K-Cups produced in 2011 would circle the globe more than six times. To update that analogy: In 2013, Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times.”
Coffee pods aren’t the only low-use, high-waste product Hamburg has set its sights on banning from the city. It also plans on getting rid of plastic forks, knives, and spoons, non-refillable plastic bottles, plastic plates and cups, air freshener, patio heaters, and chlorine-based cleaning products.
Not surprisingly, the Hamburg government’s move is turning heads, which pleased the city’s officials. “The city can help ensure that environmentally harmful products are purchased less frequently and that sustainable products achieve even greater acceptance in the market,” Jens Kerstan, Hamburg senator, says. “Our objective is to increase the share of environmentally friendly products significantly in order to help combat climate change.”
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