2

I'm purchasing "compostable" K-cup coffee pods from Ethical Bean (see attached photo) that work in Keurig single-serve coffee machines. According to their FAQ, these compostable pods are OK for the green bin. But according to this 2018 article by the CBC, I shouldn't be putting compostable plastics in the green bin.)

I wrote to the Recycling Council of British Columbia and got this response.

Compostable plastics like the compostable K-cups are not currently accepted through green bin programs in BC. These types of plastics are unfortunately not compatible with the organics processing facilities that exist in the province, as they require processing at a very high heat for an extended period of time. Acceptability of these types of items in green bin programs varies substantially based on local facilities, so while they might be compostable in some systems they are not accepted here. Currently, these pods should be disposed of as garbage, as they are not recyclable as plastic.

However, this answer seems strange to me. The pod doesn't seem to be made of plastic at all? The box (shown below) says it is made of coffee chaff. So I'm wondering if these pods are actually made with the problematic PLA, and whether the response I got from RCBC is relevant to this specific product.

enter image description here

(My original motivating question, not previously asked on this site, is: can compostable coffee pods be placed in the organics/green bin in Surrey, BC? Feel free to answer this with good sources for bonus points.)

3

The picture says 'made from coffee chaff & plant-based material', so there is something else in the pod besides just coffee chaff. After some digging I finally found this blog where it says that:

The filter was maybe the most challenging part of this development..... The PLA fibers (PLA is made using corn sugars) have to stretch to hold the coffee during manufacturing and then to accommodate the sudden pressure of very hot water without bursting during brewing....

and

... every PῧrPod100™ has a mesh filter made of advanced compostable fibers.

Note that they don't say that the resulting filter is actually made of PLA. I noticed that on the entire site the manufacturer just talks about plant-based or compostable material. Perhaps the filter is made of a (patent-pending?) material that is related to PLA or maybe it's a different type of compostable plastic.

In any case there seems to be some kind of slowly decomposing material in the pod because in the FAQ you link to the manufacturer warns that not all composting facilities may accept it (which by the way is also the case for PLA) and they say that:

Can I compost your pods in my backyard composting system? We can’t guarantee success.

If the pod was made of something that is 'home compostable' they would have said so and probably would have gone for such a certification instead of the one they have now.

  • The ironic thing is that oil is also "plant-based." At some point these manufacturers will essentially be making plastic from new plants instead of really old plants, and we will have come full circle. – LShaver Nov 13 at 14:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.