Compostable or Plastic?

I recently completed teaching my class on Recycling Public Policy and we had an interesting discussion on the merits of different coffee pods. Now, I am not a pod user myself, but the question is, are compostable pods any better than those plastic pods from the company that will remain nameless?

compostable coffee

As you can see in the photo, there is a new player in the pod market. They make compostable coffee pods shipped in a compostable bag in a brown corrugated box. But let’s take a moment and compare the two…

The Other Brand:
Plastic with claims of recyclability
Foil top with claims of recyclabillity
Coffee grinds – compostable

The New Brand:

Now, when you ship those plastic pods back…you are shipping them, they are supposedly being manually separated piece by piece with the foil going to one place, the plastic to another and the coffee to a third. In reality, much of the plastic is recovered for fuel at a resource recovery plant….which would happen if you simply placed it in the garbage….or to a landfill depending on where you live.

The compostable pods go directly to either a landfill or a resource recovery plant. In a landfill, they will break down and decompose with the coffee. The plastic pods will not break down.

Further, the plastic pods use petroleum to make the pod, the other uses a plant based polymer.

I do not see a clear winner in so far as disposal since there are no commercial composting facilities in NJ….but I do think that if you are going to use a pod, the compostable one is better since it is not plastic and does decompose….and, by the way, as a true scientist, I tried the coffee and it is much better.

You decide…I going to grind some beans.

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