In recent years, we have witnessed a sharp rise in consumer demand for sustainable products, from eco-friendly beauty buys to plastic-free packaging in the food and drink industry. Coffee pods are no exception, and this is where we believe our ‘No Waste’ capsules offer a viable alternative for sustainability-conscious coffee drinkers. But what does ‘No Waste’ mean for the environment?
Traditional coffee pods are usually made from plastic or aluminium, and could take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Although they are technically recyclable, you would need to dismantle the pods, empty the contents and clean them before they can be placed in household recycling - a time-consuming process. Several big brands have set up recycling schemes, relying on returning the pods or dropping-off at specific locations. However, these schemes are not always convenient for consumers.
Reusable coffee pods are a potential alternative to regular single-serve capsules. However, achieving a tasty cup of coffee may involve some trial and error. The water pressure and pressure at which you tamp the coffee grounds can affect results, and you will need to spend some time emptying and cleaning each pod, which is not always convenient.
At Novell, we chose to take the compostable route, meaning that our pods break down completely into non-toxic components such as water, air and soil. In a process that can take between 12 and 20 weeks, it will become compost, which means no environmental impact at all. All you need to do is place them in your local authority food-waste bin.
Our ‘No Waste’ capsules meet the EU standard EN 13432. This means that at least 90% of the packaging should disintegrate after 12 weeks under industrial composting conditions. On the other hand, materials described as ‘biodegradable’ can take many years to break down. Compostable materials are usually defined by their ability to convert to soil or fertiliser, while biodegradable simply refers to a material being able to break down over time.
It’s important to note that not all compostable materials can be composted at home. Many so-called bio-plastics are used to preserve food products and offer a long shelf. This means that they need the right conditions to break down completely. Unlike home composting, industrial composting plants are very efficient, balancing temperature, humidity and microorganisms to convert waste into high quality fertiliser.
While many local authorities in the UK continue to improve their composting schemes, there are still huge differences between areas. Be sure to check your local rules before disposing of compostable packaging.
Instead of using oil, as in conventional plastic production, the raw materials of compostable pods are organic matter (such as sugarcane, starch or lignin) and water. This means they have a far lower environmental impact. The materials are turned into a pulp that is then processed at high pressure to create a product that is both strong and flexible - perfect for packaging.
Another compostable option is polylactic acid (PLA). Made by fermenting carbohydrates from crops such as maize or cornstarch, it produces a resin-like substance that can be shaped, moulded and even coloured. What’s more, it can be produced using existing plastic-making equipment, making it relatively cost-efficient. PLA is also used for biodegradable medical devices such as screws, pins and rods, that then break down inside the body within 6-12 months. If it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for the planet!
Absolutely! And importantly, they taste great too. Our 100% compostable, 100% organic capsules are available in a range of blends and intensities, and include a decaffeinated option. If you’re looking to reduce your household waste and commit to more sustainable products, then why not start with your morning coffee?