By Mehroz Siraj Rupani
The cost of convenient coffee could prove to be very pricey for the environment, says Jean-Paul Galliard, the former chief of the coffee machine division of Nestle Foods.
In an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) earlier this week, Galliard claimed that due to the convenience factor, people around the world are now buying coffee pods in record numbers.
The ABC reported earlier in August 2016 that globally, retail sales of coffee pods had grown from $7billion in 2010 to over $17 billion in 2015.
The report cited that in Australia only, consumers purchased coffee pods worth over $215 million in 2015.
The report also noted that coffee giants such as Gloria Jeans Coffees and Starbucks had moved quickly to adapt to the needs of the single serve coffee consumers in order to maintain healthy profit margins at their chain stores.
“It will be a disaster and it is time to move on. People should not sacrifice the environment for convenience,” Galliard argued.
He further added that as these pods are populating landfills across Australia, United States and Europe by their billions every year, local governments and recycling companies are being presented with a massive environmental challenge that they were not able to cope up with.
According to Mr Galliard, coffee pods today are primarily made out of plastics and aluminium that are not biodegradable and could take up to 500 years in order to completely decompose.
“That is just nonsense. It should not take place,” Mr Gaillard said, adding that more research was required in order to learn about how these pods could be disposed off or recycled without further harming the environment.
“Aluminium capsules have to be shredded, the coffee has to be taken away with water, the varnish has to be burnt and aluminium has to be re-smelted again,” he explained.
“You need a lot of transportation and energy,” he further added, suggesting that recycling these pods could prove to be economically and financially hazardous for local governments and smaller recycling companies.
Galliard argued in favour of substituting pods with ethically sourced coffee that he claimed was increasingly available across a range of coffee shops in the United States and Australia.
His views were also supported by Professor Damien Giurco, who heads the Institute For Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney.
“I would order a short black (original version of the Americano) from a top cafe with sustainably sourced beans,” he told The ABC, arguing that such an approach would not only help the environment but also assist small locally owned businesses in remaining profitable.
“You need to think about where the coffee has come from, if it is grown sustainably, but also how you make it and the waste it produces and where it goes,” he said, arguing that consumers should feel confident that their cup of coffee was not contributing towards wildlife destruction, child labour and slavery in the coffee growing parts of the world.
He further argued that consumers could reduce their collective carbon footprints if they purchased coffee in resealable foil based packaging.
“Boiling the kettle with renewable energy and putting it into the plunger or your non-pod espresso machine would be a good start,” he said, adding that coffee consumption at home and at workplaces could be made more environmentally sustainable.
Galliard and Professor Giurco, both argued that the global food and beverages recycling industry is in its infancy and that recycling coffee pods and used food packaging on an industrial scale would require a lot of handwork and ongoing effort in the coming decades.