COFFEE pods are easy to use and go well with the quick pace of our modern lives, but they can generate a lot of unnecessary waste, with millions of single-use capsules thrown away every year.
It is thought that 95 million cups of coffee are drunk daily in the UK, with half of regular coffee drinkers using one-use capsules.
That's a great news for the coffee industry but sadly not for our planet with 95 per cent of capsules on the market made of aluminium and plastic, which are more often than not not disposed of correctly.
In fact, less than one in five people are aware that aluminium capsules that go to landfill can take up to 500 years to biodegrade.
And about 42 per cent of capsule users admit throwing them in their everyday bin. A sobering thought.
But don't despair there, are many ways you can do your bit for the environment without ditching your favourite coffee pods.
Here's what you need to know.
Why are coffee pods bad for the environment?
The usual coffee pods are made from plastic, aluminium or a mix of both.
This means the pods are difficult to process in standard recycling plants.
And the materials can take up to 500 years to decompose naturally in a landfill.
Some company's like Nespresso and Nescafe's Dolce Gusto are trying to their bit by running their own recycling programmes.
For example, Nespresso customers can buy a special recycling bag from the company's shop or online and bring it back to a store or book a home collection once the bag is filled with used capsules.
It's seems fairly easy but the company told consumer group Which? that just 28 per cent of pods are collected via its recycling scheme, which means that consumers are not recycling the capsules, even though it is actually possible.
Which eco friendly coffee pods work with my coffee machine?
This will depend on the machine you have at home.
You'll need to always make sure you check the pods you're buying are compatible with the appliance you have at home.
Many small independent companies are bringing out compostable pods as an alternative to the classic Nespresso capsules, so you'll be spoilt for choice.
What's the difference between biodegradable, compostable and recyclable?
This can be confusing.
Biodegradable and compostable are two words which are often used to say the same thing when we talk about recycling – but there's a slight difference.
Compostable products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit – when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants.
Biodegradable material will also break down quickly and safely into compounds but they can leave a small trace.
So, to improve your green credentials, it's usually preferable to use disposable products that are labelled "compostable" as opposed to just "biodegradable".
Recyclable products are something else entirely.
These are products that can be collected to produce new items and are essential in diverting waste from landfills.
Common recyclable material include paper, cardboard and glass among others.
1. We tried: Lost Sheep Coffee Company
- Morning Campers Compostable Capsules, £3.95 for 10 from Lost Sheep Coffee Co. – buy here
Inspired by great coffee across the pond in Australia, Kent-based coffee lovers Lost Sheep Coffee Company are changing the eco-conscious coffee game.
We tried their compostable coffee capsules, and were really impressed by their dedication to the planet – and flavour.
Their capsules are made out of a waste product of the paper industry, which otherwise would have been incinerated, and are made in a carbon-neutral factory running on solar and hydro energy. Could they be any more eco-friendly?!
We especially loved sipping their Morning Campers coffee pods as soon as we stumbled out of bed – it fit snugly into our Nespresso machine and tasted sweet like chocolate, with a rich and creamy mouthfeel.
After, we popped the pod straight into our food waste bin to be composted. It tasted better knowing we were doing some inkling of good for the planet.
They offer subscriptions, decaf options, and also do a range of responsibly-sourced coffee beans, too – once ground down and used, they are great for compost in your garden.
Now is the best time to join the herd, and be a sheep.
2. We tried: SealPod
- Stainless Steel Reusable Capsule Starter Kit, £22.90 from Amazon – buy here
Now this is unbelievably clever – SealPod are breaking boundaries with their reusable stainless steel coffee pod.
We tried their Stainless Steel Reusable Capsule Starter Kit and were blown away. It comes with a SealPod made of stainless steel, a scoop, aluminium stickers and full instructions.
You simply choose your favourite ground coffee – so you're no longer limited to certain brands – place a scoop or two into the steel pod, pack it in, place a sticker on top, and pop it into your machine.
It's a little messy when you're in a rush, but it really puts the joy into making your coffee. Once you're finished, pop it in the sink or dishwasher to be rinsed.
SealPod recommend disposing of your used coffee grounds into your plant pots as a natural fertiliser, too.
Ultimately, it saves millions of coffee pods going straight to landfill as you just wash out, and reuse – and it's incredible cost-saving.
Enjoy the freedom of coffee on your – and the planet's – terms.
3. We tried: Black Insomnia
- Black Insomnia Pods, £9.99 for 20 – buy here
Now, this coffee is not for the faint-hearted.
If you're a multi-cup drinker every day, then look no further than Black Insomnia – boasting to be the world's strongest coffee.
This is for all the workaholics and seriously hard grafters out there, Black Insomnia offers four times the strength of your usual cup o' Joe with a whopping 1105mg of caffeine per cup.
We tried their compostable Nespresso-compatible capsules and were surprised at the sweet, caramel and nutty flavour – as we were expecting a seriously strong, eye-watering mouthful.
This powerful blend is strong in flavour, and can be popped straight into your food waste bin or compost to decompose. Sign us up.
4. Best big brand: Lavazza Lungo Dolce
- Lavazza, Lungo Dolce, £4.40 for 16 capsules on Lavazza – buy here
Lavazza is aiming to replace its entire range of at-home capsules with these delicious and 100 per cent industrially compostable capsules by the end of the year.
The Eco Caps retain their distinctive full-bodied aroma for longer, thanks to the innovative, "aroma safe" technology, which keeps each capsule fresh for up to 18 months.
Composting of the Eco Caps can take up to six months providing they are correctly disposed in the food waste bin.
5. Best for your wallet: Dualit Sumatra Mandheling
- Dualit, Sumatra Mandheling, £3.19 for 10 pods at Ocado – buy here
If you're the lucky owner of a Dualit or a classic Nespresso machine, these pods are a great budget-friendly alternative.
At just 31p per capsule, you can enjoy a 100 per cent Arabica Fairtrade coffee with notes of velvety milk chocolate and tropical fruits, with a sweet, malty finish.
Dualit is also Fairtrade certified meaning the coffee is ethically sourced from small farms, helping communities thrive.
6. Best eco-credentials: Cru Kafe Organic Indian
- Cru Kafe Organic Indian, £5.49 for 10 capsules on Selfridges – buy here
Cru Kafe has been selling organic and Fairtrade coffee since 2013 but now they're eco-conscious, too.
Its coffee comes in a recyclable pod (and packaging) that can be thrown out with your regular recycling.
The brand only ever uses coffee that’s been untouched by chemical pesticides and fertilisers, so you'll get a great-tasting cuppa with as low an environmental footprint as possible.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to scoop out the coffee first though before putting them into the recycling bin – but it only takes a minute.
Compatible with all Nespresso machines, you'll get to choose between several roasts depending on whether you prefer a stronger cup to wake you up, or lighter brew mid-afternoon.
We recommend the Organic Indian – a strong, full-bodied coffee with a smoky aroma and a mild sweetness.
7. Best packaging: Grind Coffee Pods
- Grind Coffee Pods, £10 for 20 pods – buy here
Founded in East London in 2011, Grind has grown into an eclectic group of cafes, bars and restaurants across the capital – and now you can enjoy their delicious coffee at home.
The brand offers organic and compostable pods that are compatible with all original Nespresso machines.
London Grind also prides itself on working exclusively with farms who pay a fair wage to their workers and aim to reinvest in their communities.
The best thing? Their stylish pink (and 100 per cent recyclable tins) are perfect to store your coffee pods.
Once you're done with a tin, don't throw it away, get refills instead or use it as part of your home decor – some people have even potted plants in their tins, too.
They come in a letterbox-friendly refill pack, which contains 30 pods.
8. Best all-rounder: Bold El Salvador
- Bold El Salvador, £3.75 for 10 pods on Roar Grill – buy here
The Roar Grill coffee pods tick all of our eco-needs without compromising on taste.
Their coffee is absolutely delicious, intense and creamy – exactly what we want from our morning brew.
An ethical company through and through, it always pays its farmers more than the Fairtrade price while all their coffee is organic and sourced sustainably.
Roar Grill use cornstarch-based bioplastic that is certified to be 100 per cent compostable along with their packaging.
You can choose between three flavours including Bold El Salvador, Exotic Brazil and Rare Colombia – or opt for a starter pack with 40 coffee pods for less than £18.
Did you like our round-up of the best sustainable coffee pods? Take a look at our guide of the best coffee machines on the market.
If you want to read more about the best kitchen appliances, check out our dedicated home section.
We've launched Sun Selects so that you could find everything you might need when shopping around the web.
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