The coffee pod – it’s a product banned in Hamburg, Germany for its negative environmental impact yet it belongs to a market worth more than $10 billion a year.
Global coffee pod sales are on track to overtake those for roasted coffee by 2020, market researcher Euromonitor says.
So as demand soars an offshoot market is emerging offering degradable, biodegradable or compostable pods.
Melbourne company Pod & Parcel has created a biodegradable pod that breaks down in roughly the same time it takes an orange peel to degrade.
“There’s a lot of bad stigma around coffee pods, and we basically set up from the beginning to change that,” Pod & Parcel co-founder Jai Felinski says.
“Normal pods can take up to 500 years to break down, while our pods, made from a corn starch and sugar cane composite, take between 90-180 days.”
Felinski says consumers can be misled by industry labels or “greenwashing”.
“It’s a growing statistic that sustainable and eco-friendly food products are definitely more on the consumers eye,” he said.
“We have had few customers asking for fair trade and if it’s organic. In many instances these terms can become buzz words that people get sucked into.”
No legal definition
Food law expert John Thisgaard of Foodlegal, a law firm specialising in product and marketing compliance, also the publisher of Australian Food News, says terms such as “degradable”, “biodegradable” or “compostable” have no technical legal definition in Australia.
“However, any packaging that makes these claims must ensure that it is not misleading consumers in breach of the Australian Consumer Law,” he says.
The ACCC has previously taken legal action against companies making false or misleading “biodegradable” claims.
In 2010, Nupak Australia Pty Ltd was found to be in breach of consumer law provisions by claiming that its plastic bags were biodegradable, despite not adhering to the Australian Standard on biodegradable plastics.
Mr Thisgaard says companies making any claims like “degradable”, “biodegradable” or “compostable” should therefore ensure that they are complying with any relevant industry standards, as these standards may be quite influential in shaping consumers’ expectations.
“We have seen that Courts are willing to use industry standards to provide threshold tests where no legal definition exists,” he says.
Meanwhile there is more to your biodegradable morning cup of joe than you’d think.
Several issues of concern remain, including waste contamination and correct education on recycling in Australia.
“There’s two issues with the coffee pod; one is its size, leaving it unable to be sorted,” says Jenni Downes, senior research consultant for the Institute for Sustainable Futures.
“It is also a composite product which means it contains both plastic and aluminum together.”
“Our current curbside system and sorting facilities are not advanced enough to handle such small plastic items, meaning coffee pods can contaminate the recycling process.”
“The best solution for coffee pods; avoid having them. If you’re going to have them or you’re going to be the manufacturer or the brand using them, create a collection method that allows people to recycle them.”
Australian companies like Terracycle collect and re-use non-recyclable post-consumer waste like coffee pods, and offer a service for retailers.
Originally posted in Australian Food News