Coffee fashionistas probably don’t even think about it but they should: their precious, oh-so-trendy, and yes, expensive, single-use coffee pods are decidedly not green. In fact, they’re landfill-bait. How so? They’re made of polystyrene, which isn’t recyclable for a number of reasons, chiefly because of cost and food-safety concerns. That’s bad news for the environment because the market for single-use coffee pods is exploding.
But that could be changing. Several companies are working on 100% recyclable single-use coffee pods, which means they will ultimately enter the recycling stream rather than the landfill. Because their target audience is more “green” than the average Folger’s drinker, manufacturers are eager to move to recyclable injection-molded polypropylene (PP) pods over the next few years. They’re convinced that their customers will demand the shift, once the word gets out about the recycling issue.
But recycle-ability is just one benefit of PP-molded coffee pods. Another key benefit: the plastic-injection molding process (unlike thermoforming) can add features into the final product which negate the need for costly added components such as filters. This benefit not only removes a second molding process, it eliminates or reduces scrap, assembly costs and part weight. All of this has a salutary effect on the environment, thus boosting the “green factor” considerably.
But there’s more: injection-molded pods are also more malleable, allowing them to incorporate more shapes and provide wall and barrier consistency. They also have a flange seal-off area and no barrier breakthrough. Finally, the PP plastic injection process also produces better clarity in clear parts.
While today’s coffee pods use a standardized shape, there’s no guarantee that won’t change; if they do get bigger, or change shape, plastic-injected-molded PP pods are more than able to incorporate these new designs because of the aforementioned malleability.
So look-out coffee fans! The new green label you’ll undoubtedly see on your favorite single-use coffee pod won’t say “decaffeinated.” Instead, it will proudly declare “100% recyclable”!