Almost 30,000 coffee pods go to landfill each month and take 500 years to decompose

Blend of aluminium and plastic is difficult to recycle and extremely long lasting, research shows

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 06 October 2021 09:34 BST
<p>Two minutes to make a cup of coffee. Half a millennium to decompose. Coffee pods are among the most persistent forms of domestic waste</p>

Two minutes to make a cup of coffee. Half a millennium to decompose. Coffee pods are among the most persistent forms of domestic waste

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Pods used in coffee machines are among the worst forms of human waste for the environment when it comes to long-term damage, according to new research which suggests they will take 500 years to decompose.

This is longer than plastic drinks bottles which can take over 400 years, and considerably longer than aluminium cans which can decompose in 80-100 years.

The research by Packaging Online reveals 29,000 plastic coffee pods now end up in landfill every month – almost 350,000 a year, where they won’t break down for half a millennium.

However, the researchers noted that much less damaging options for coffee pod users are to buy reusable stainless-steel pods or to use compostable pods which can decompose in under 2 months.

The study listed various types of human-made materials by how long it took them to degrade.

Glass is the longest lasting – with estimates that the material could take well over a million years to degrade, though the researchers noted that it is 100 per cent recyclable, and is among the most recycled material on the planet.

Coffee pods are the next on the list, lasting 500 years. Around 39,000 capsules are produced every minute globally and up to 29,000 of these end up in landfill, this is because they are usually made of aluminium coated with plastic which is difficult to separate before then being recycled. One of the key reasons they persist so long is that they are strong. They are designed to withstand the high pressures of the coffee-making process.

The 16 million plastic bottles that aren’t recycled in the UK every year each take around 450 years to decompose. If Shakespeare had used a plastic water bottle, it would still exist today.

The research also highlighted the packaging waste with the least impact on the environment.

This included aluminium cans, cardboard and paper.

Tom Wood, the general manager of Packaging Online, said: “Comparing the longevity of plastics against more sustainable counterparts, like compostable materials, cardboard and paper, shows clearly the impact being more mindful about material usage and waste can have.”

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