Last December I stayed at the Conrad Miami and I made a comment in my hotel review about the waste of a single use plastic container for one cup of Illy coffee. I tried to make a second cup of coffee reusing the plastic container to no avail. A second run gives slightly colored water.
Reading Joe Brancatelli today I learned that Hilton Garden Inn partnered with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. to supply Keurig single cup brewing coffee makers as the hotel brand’s room standard.
Apparently 12% of U.S. households own single cup coffee brewers and more hotels are adding these coffee makers as they make guest room improvements.
The manufacturing requirements of the K-Cup pack currently make recycling difficult, according to Keurig. The website explains: “The K-Cup pack is made up of three main elements: the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. The pack’s components prevent oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee. Without the barrier the packaging materials provide, we could not maintain quality or freshness.”
As Single-Serve Coffee Use Soars, Industry Struggles with Recycling Solutions – Environmental Leader June 5, 2013.
I love coffee to start my morning. I brew a pot of coffee. I use a natural brown paper filter and fill it with fresh ground beans I buy at Costco. Currently I have Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend. I think I paid around $12 for two pounds. That is enough coffee beans to make about 300 cups of coffee for me. That is about 4 cents per cup of coffee.
Those single cup plastic pods are about 60 cents per cup of coffee and require significantly more energy to produce and generate immensely more landfill plastic waste. I know I am in the minority when it comes to coffee consumption and consumerism. It blows my mind that so many people actually go to Starbucks regularly and pay $2 to $3 for a cup of coffee.
“Americans under the age of 40 are thinking about coffee pricing in cups,” said Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. “If you asked my mother how much coffee cost, she would have told you that the red can was $5.25 a pound and the blue can was $4.25. If you ask people in their 20s and 30s, they’ll say coffee is $1.75 to $3.75 a cup.”
Nespresso has sold more than 27 billion capsules worldwide since it was introduced in 1986.
With Coffee, the Price of Individualism Can Be High – New York Times Feb 7, 2012.
Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research Center published a survey this year showing that a hotel’s environmental policy was the lowest ranked consideration among hotel guests surveyed in several countries around the world. Only Germans placed environmental policy above corporate policy to rank second to last of ten factors influencing a choice of hotel.
Illy espresso maker. I drank my way through the capsules of coffee pretty quickly. And I found that only one cup of coffee can be made with each capsule. I liked the taste, but it seemed kind of wasteful to have a throwaway plastic capsule for each cup of coffee I drank. – See more at: http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2013/01/26/conrad-miami/#sthash.VO3PCXQX.dpuf
I am such a novice when it comes to single cup coffee pods that my original article on Conrad Miami called the product ‘Iffy’.
And a commenter provided this response to my Conrad Miami article.
”I liked the taste, but it seemed kind of wasteful to have a throwaway plastic capsule for each cup of coffee I drank.” Environmental-friendliness aside, that capsule is a billion dollar product marketed by Illy, Starbucks, Keuring, Dunkin Donuts, et al.”
Joe’s article got me thinking again about the environmental impact of single use plastic pods for coffee.
Apparently I am not the only one concerned about the plastic waste.
“The whole concept of the product is a little bit counter to environmental progress,” said Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If you are trying to create something that is single use, disposable, and relies on a one-way packaging that can’t be recycled, there are inherent problems with that.”
A Coffee Conundrum – New York Times (Aug 3, 2010)
Is Recycling Coffee Pods the Solution?
Green Mountain Coffee, owners of Keurig, said in the 2010 New York Times article they were working on the engineering challenges of making an environmentally-friendly coffee pod container. Their current sustainability report indicates about 50% of the environmental impact of their coffee pod business comes from packaging and disposal of coffee pods.
Nespresso Capsules can be shipped free of charge to a recycling program for used pods involving shipping them to a TerraCycle center in New Jersey.
An interesting rebuttal to the TerraCycle recycling program comes from TreeHugger.com
When sensible people think about the environmental impact of that daily cup, they don’t buy pods that are made from fossil fuels, used once, shipped around the country and downcycled into low grade last resort uses. If they want a hit of Illy they might stick it in a Bialetti or a french press and then put the coffee grounds in their own garden.
Coffee pod greenwashing comes to America with Illy and Terracycle – TreeHugger.com
An industry news article came out this week that might lead to a solution.
Biome Bioplastics has developed a portfolio of compostable materials for coffee pods based on renewable, natural resources, including plant starches and tree byproducts. These bioplastics will degrade to prescribed international standards in composting environments.
Biome Bioplastics develops biodegradable coffee pod. FoodBev.com Nov 5, 2013.
So what is wrong with simple drip filter coffee makers in hotel rooms?
According to Joe Brancatelli’s article, drip filter coffee makers are hotel mini meth labs. I am surprised to hear that. Seems like there would be more hotel fires.
I’ll stick with a drip coffee maker anyway. The meth residue will simply add to my morning coffee buzz.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out my page of collated current hotel promotions.