Love a freshly brewed, single-size cup of o’joe? You’re not alone. According to The Atlantic, nearly one in three American homes own a specialized, pod-based coffee machine like a Keurig brewer. However, billions of these tiny coffee capsules end up in landfills each year. In 2013, Keurig Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups.
Germans, too, love their coffee pods, and use about 3 billion pods a year. However, that number will soon plummet. To cut down on waste, NPR reports that Hamburg, Germany, has become the first city to ban coffee pods from government-run buildings, offices, and establishments, including schools and universities.
Though convenient, many coffee pods aren’t easily recyclable, since they’re often made from a mixture of plastic and aluminum, NPR points out. Even when the pods are made from reusable materials, they’re often discarded as trash. Plus, they’re expensive, and in Hamburg they're paid for with taxpayers’ money when used in public buildings.
"We think it's time to evaluate this very critically," Jens Kerstan, senator for the Hamburg Ministry for Environment and Energy, told CBC Radio. "If you look at the logical costs about efficiency, energy efficiency, about waste and, in the end, of money—it makes no sense buying those machines."
Nespresso, which produces most of Europe's coffee pods, argues that single-size coffee pods aren't that bad. They cut down on water and coffee waste, which impacts the environment far more than packaging, they argue. Also, their pods are mostly made from recyclable aluminum. Nevertheless, officials in Hamburg have already made their decision.
Hamburg has also passed a slew of other guidelines designed to combat environmental waste. Along with coffee pods, the government can no longer use taxpayer money to buy nonrefillable plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plates and cups, chlorine-based cleaning products, air freshener, and patio heaters.