Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany with a population of 1.7 million, has launched a ban of the coffee pods from their offices. The reason: they are bad for the environment.
A 150-page report released by the city of Hamburg, Germany called the Guide to Green Procurement stated, “Coffee pods cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation. Besides plastic, they often contain polluting aluminum.”
The city announced that they started a ban on buying “certain polluting products or product components.” Jan Dube, a spokesman for the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy, told the BBC: “The capsules can’t be recycled easily because they are often made of a mixture of plastic and aluminum. It’s 6g of coffee in 3g of packaging. We thought that these shouldn’t be bought with taxpayers’ money.”
Interesting enough, when the people of Hamburg were polled by The Grocer, a supermarket trade magazine, about 10 percent said, “They believed coffee pods are bad for the environment.” However, on the contrary, when people were asked if they owned a machine that uses the pods, 22 percent said, “Yes.” In fact, when asked about coffee consumption, a quarter say they’re addicted, but only 10% want to cut back. To put things in perspective, since last year, more than £112m (or $159 million US) worth of coffee pods were sold in the UK. In the US, about 13 percent of Americans drink coffee made from single-cup brewers every single day.
“The capsules can’t be recycled easily because they are often made of a mixture of plastic and aluminum. It’s 6g of coffee in 3g of packaging. We thought that these shouldn’t be bought with taxpayers’ money.”
Nespresso®, the most popular provider in Europe, has been producing coffee pods since 1986. When a spokesperson from the company was questioned, they responded that “We are frequently asked whether individual portions and the use of aluminum contradict sustainability; in our opinion, the opposite is the case.” It is obvious that the city of Hamburg thought otherwise. Nespresso® continues, saying, “reducing the amount of coffee and water used per cup has a bigger impact on carbon footprint than packaging— especially, packaging made from aluminum.”
Other items that were on the city’s ban list include plastic plates, plastic cutlery, chlorine-based cleaning products, bottled water, and air fresheners. This initiative will push companies to manufacture more environmentally friendly products, especially since people are not going to stop drinking coffee anytime soon. As recently as last year, an Italian producer called Caffe Vergnano developed a type of capsule that can decompose naturally. Per Caffe Vergnano’s website, they look “towards the future with serenity, standing strong on its 13,500 square meter factory and 18 automated production lines.” Let’s hope the trend towards being environmentally sound continues, and more city offices ban products that don’t make the cut.