Compostable Coffee Pod Offers Alternative To Landfilling, Recycling, Volume 10, Issue 5

Compostable Coffee Pod Offers Alternative To Landfilling, Recycling

Volume 10, Issue 5

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Compostable Coffee Pod Offers Alternative To Landfilling, Recycling

With the soaring popularity of single-brew coffee and expansion of the format to other beverages and foods, retailers have dramatically expanded shelf space for products housed in the pods, or capsules, the single-brew machines use. At the same time, concerns about the growing volume of waste attributable to the tiny pods have prompted brand owners and other stakeholders to look for options beyond landfilling.

The May/June 2016 issue of TricorBraun Sustainability Times, reported on a recycling effort undertaken by New York-based Nespresso USA. It not only offers collection points, but also mail-in bags for used pods.

Compostability appears to be another viable and growing option. Loblaw Companies Ltd., Brampton, Ontario, Canada, an operator of grocery and drug stores and one of the largest retailers in Canada, has launched certified 100% compostable President’s Choice® single-serve coffee pods. The Keurig®-compatible pods are made almost entirely from plant materials and reclaimed coffee bean skins, using technology developed by Ontario-based University of Guelph and Club Coffee of Toronto, a roaster and contract manufacturer and distributor of packaged coffees (see September/October 2015 TricorBraun Sustainability Times). With the launch, 100 million President’s Choice® and no name® pods sold annually will be compostable in the large-scale composting systems that serve millions of Canadian households.

“Our company and customers challenge the notion that convenience packaging is a justification for waste,” reports Galen Weston, executive chairman and president, Loblaw Companies. “We expect this product launch and the Canadian innovation behind it will re-invent the category, helping our customers to enjoy their coffee without sacrificing their commitment to the environment.”

The pods used by President’s Choice are the first single-serve coffee pods to be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), New York, New York, which ensures products meet rigorous independent testing and verification according to international scientific standards for compostability. The compostable pods are easily identified by the BPI logo on pack and by the brown ring on the pod.


The label on Club Coffee pods carries the name PurPod 100, which has been shortlisted for the PAC 2017 Global Leadership Award for Package Innovation in an annual competition, sponsored by the Toronto-based PAC Packaging Consortium. The concept already has earned considerable recognition including the 2016 Innovation in Bioplastics Award from SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, Washington, DC, and the 2016 Bio-Based Product of the Year from Bio-Based World News, London, UK. In addition, it was chosen by the editors of Packaging World, Chicago, IL, as one of the designs profiled in its 42 Best Package Designs eBook. Several other brands offer product in PurPod 100 pods, including Tayst, Copper Moon Coffee and Hills Bros.

The growing demand for compostable pods has prompted an agreement between Ahlstrom and Coffee Club. The multi-year agreement calls for Ahlstrom to supply its biodegradable polylactic-acid-based (PLA) compostable infusion material for single-serve PurPod 100 coffee pods. The biopolymer is combined with other natural fibers to obtain the pressure-resistance properties necessary for good quality and the filtering abilities needed to block residues from passing through. Ahlstrom produces PLA-based materials, which also can be used in tea bags and other food packaging, at its plant in Chirnside, UK.

The President’s Choice brand has made environmental consciousness a brand hallmark for more than 25 years, since the launch of PC G.R.E.E.N® products in 1989. More recently, Loblaw has diverted close to 10 billion single-use plastic bags from landfill, through its pay-for-plastic bag program.

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Which Is Greener, Single-Serving Pod Or Multi-Cup Brewing?

Published in June 2015, the study, “Life Cycle Assessment of Coffee Consumption: Comparison of Single-Serve Coffee and Bulk Coffee Brewing,” identifies three key benefits of single-serve coffee versus traditional multi-cup brewing.

  • Single serve coffee uses an exact serving of fresh coffee in a controlled process – leading to minimal coffee wastage.

  • Drip-brewed coffee making is consumer controlled – consumers are more likely to prepare more brewed coffee than they need with the leftover coffee going down the kitchen sink.

  • Bulk brewing systems typically use a hot plate to keep the coffee warm and can use more energy than single-serve systems.


James D. Downham, PAC CEO, says, “We understand that people are concerned about the environmental impacts of single-serve packaging. So, we wanted to support a transparent, credible study that would assess the big picture environmentally, including the impacts on the staggering global issues of food loss and waste because every time someone empties a coffee pot down the drain, the water, energy and resources used from the farm all the way to that home are going down the drain too.”

The work by Quantis Canada experts was reviewed by external experts and is ISO-compliant. For more information, visit


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Boxed Water Supports Tree Planting


Boxed Water, Grand Rapids, MI, views cartons as a more sustainable packaging choice than bottles for water. It also believes in giving back and donates at least 1% of its sales at part of 1% for the Planet, Waitsfield, VT. The proceeds support reforestation and water relief through partnerships with National Forest Foundation, Missoula, MT, and

As 2016 winds down, a ticker on the Boxed Water website stands at 430,156 indicating the company has met and exceeded its 2016 goal of planting 200,000 trees in Montana’s Custer-Gallatin National Forest and is well on its way to meeting its goal of planting one million trees by 2020 in U.S. National Forests. The current total also includes more than 100,000 pine seedlings planted in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon.

Boxed Water encourages consumers to support the campaign. For every photo of Boxed Water posted using #ReTree, the company plants two trees.

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Whirlpool Adds How2Recycle Instructions On Packaging


Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, MI, becomes the first appliance manufacturer to add How2Recycle information to its packaging to encourage recycling. The How2Recycle standardized labeling system, a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition®, Charlottesville, Virginia, gives consumers simplified instructions on how to best recycle product packaging materials.

The How2Recycle labeling will “…make it even easier for our consumers to do the right thing the right way,” says Ron Voglewede, Whirlpool’s global sustainability director. Going forward, he says, it “…will allow us to inform homeowners on the best way to manage and eliminate waste while helping lower their impacts in their own communities.”

With all the different types of materials on the market today, learning how to responsibly dispose of product packaging can be confusing for consumers. However according to a recent consumer survey conducted by How2Recycle, 50% of respondents reported changing their behavior based on what they learned from the packaging labeling system.

The partnership with How2Recycle is part of Whirlpool’s larger commitment to sustainability, which emphasizes energy efficiency as well as waste reduction. The company has received 38 ENERGY STAR® Awards since 1998 – more than any other appliance manufacturer in the U.S. and Canada.Corporate sustainability and waste reduction is also a priority across Whirlpool’s manufacturing and supply chain, with plans calling for each of its manufacturing facilities worldwide to be zero waste to landfill by 2022. For more information,


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Seven Firms Earn Sustainability Awards

Seven companies took different paths but arrived at the same destination as winners in the second annual Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards competition, sponsored by the OpX Leadership Network, Reston, VA. First Place honors go to McCormick & Co., Baltimore, MD, and Olam Spices & Vegetable Ingredients, part of Olam International, London, U.K.

In the Project Category, McCormick was recognized for achieving net zero energy use at its 368,000-sq.-ft. distribution center (DC) in Belcamp, MD. The effort involved an upgrade of lighting, air conditioning and conveyors that reduced energy consumption 55%, followed by installation of a roof-top 1800-kilowatt solar array. With the energy savings from the upgrades, the solar array generates more energy than the DC consumes. So the facility actually adds electricity to the grid.

Second Place in the Project Category went to Smithfield Foods, Smithfield, VA, for water reuse. In a Third Place tie, Snyder’s-Lance, Charlotte, NC, was recognized for a wastewater project, clean discharge and Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Cincinnati, OH, earned recognition for power quality and conservation.

In the Program Category Olam Spices took First Place with an 8.8% reduction in water use at its tomato processing facility in Lemoore, CA. The facility not only cut costs by nearly $15,000, but also saved 23,000 kilowatt hours/100-day operating season of electricity.

Other winners in the Program Category included a Second Place to Musco Family Olive Co., Tracy, CA, for an SQFI (Safe Quality Food Institute) ethical sourcing of products. Big Heart Pet Brands, San Francisco, CA, and Sunny Delight tied for Third Place. Big Heart was recognized for community engagement in its Milk Bone Recycle Program-Buffalo, and Sunny Delight earned honors for packaging materials reduction.

“We were thrilled to honor these companies and their dedication to innovation, quality and environmental sustainability,” says Steve Schlegel, co-managing director, OpX Leadership Network. “Their pursuits of sustainable manufacturing goals are inspiring and we look forward to seeing further improvements to sustainability in food, beverage and consumer products operations next year.”

Details about the winning entries are posted on the OpX Leadership Network website. Sunny Delight, Musco and Snyder’s Lance are repeat winners of the peer-reviewed competition.

The OpX Leadership Network was founded in 2011 by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, Reston, VA, to connect consumer packaged goods companies and original equipment manufacturers with the goals of solving common operational challenges, improving decision making and achieving operational excellence. For more information, visit

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About the author

Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 25 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Packaging Strategies) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist and principal of Forcinio Communications, an editorial services firm. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.” In addition to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Pharmaceutical Technology, Dairy Foods, National Provisioner and Healthcare Packaging. She also has served as editor of the PACK EXPO Show Daily.

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