Green

The lowdown on biodegradable coffee capsules

For the past month or so I’ve been exploring methods of reducing the household waste I generate — both that which goes to landfill and that which needs to be recycled.

Because, while it’s essential to reduce landfill, and recycling is certainly the better option, I believe the best option is to reduce waste all together. Recycling, after all, takes energy and resources that could be better deployed.

So… one of the first areas I’ve addressed is coffee capsules.

I would like to say that I’ve stopped using coffee capsules all together. I wish I could. But now that I’m all accustomed to flat white coffees at home (with my trusty milk frother) I cannot give them up. And my Nespresso machine with its capsules just makes it so easy and convenient and clean. (I simply detest dealing with coffee grounds.)

So I’m not giving up my coffee capsules.

The good news is that Nespresso’s aluminium capsules are recycled by Nespresso if you send them back via their stores (and participating florists). The coffee grounds go to compost and the aluminium is recycled. Excellent. Much better than landfill.

But recycling is a resource and energy-intensive process. There’s the collection and transport of the capsules, the machine to crack them open and separate the materials, then the melting down and reprocessing of the aluminium. All that energy. How much better is that than landfill?

coffeepod#1

As soon as I became aware of ecoCaffe, an Australian company that distributes Swiss-made Ethical Coffee Company biodegradable coffee capsules that are compatible with Nespresso machines, I resolved to give them a try.

According to ecoCaffe’s website, the capsules are made primarily from vegetable fibre and starch and degrade within 180 days in industrial composting. Sounds great, right? That’s way better than 150-200 years for aluminium capsules (if you don’t recycle them) and 500+ years for plastic capsules (which clearly should never be used again).

I ordered a couple of boxes. They came. I drank coffee.

Out of the two different roasts I ordered, I quite liked one and didn’t much like the other. Neither come close to my favourite Nespresso capsules (arpeggio — the purple one, and indriya — the olive one).

Disappointing.

This is not to say it’s bad coffee, but coffee is a personal thing, right?

coffeepods#2

The other thing that disappointed me was the packaging. The capsules themselves are fine — they feel a little plasticky and have a papery filter, but I trust them when they say they biodegrade, because the global standard is very strict. But the 10 capsules were double-packaged in a plastic bag and a cardboard box. With my current mission to minimise soft plastic packaging this was a big black mark.

When it comes to disposal of the used capsules, I have thrown all 20 capsules used so far into my worm farm. I don’t think I’ll be able to throw them all in there (assuming I purchase some more), but I’m interested to see how they go in a home composting situation.

coffeepods#4

Other disposal alternatives include: 1) to put them loose in my general garbage bin, although my understanding is that landfill conditions are not optimum for composting or biodegradation; 2) throw them in my green waste bin (according to their website), but I feel I should check with my council first before I start doing that.

Overall, I still have some things to work out, but I will persevere with another round of these capsules soon. I confess that in the meantime I’ve ordered another batch of Nespresso capsules, which will of course get recycled, but… I would really like to find a viable biodegradable option.


Update 18 July

From discussion generated by this post, I am now investigating stainless steel capsules! There are a few options on eBay can be refilled and reused unlimited times. I figure I might be able to handle coffee grounds on that scale. Will report back in time.

Waging my own war on waste

Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to make you realise that, despite all your best green intentions, you’ve developed some really bad habits.

Habits that are derived from the endless quest for convenience in this capitalist world we live in, and which are now contributing to seemingly endless waste — waste food, waste plastic, waste stuff, wasted resources…

I’ve long considered I do my bit for the environment. I’ve never professed to be perfect, and I’m aware my lifestyle leads me to cut some corners, but I never realised how much more I could be doing (or not doing, as the case may be), until I watched the recent ABC (Australia) television series War on Waste

War on Waste has got everyone in my circles talking — and hopefully thinking and doing as well. It’s a three-part (so far) magazine-style show exploring the amount of waste in Australian society. So far it has focused on the subjects of food, plastic bags/soft plastic packaging, disposable coffee cups and fast fashion. But I’m pretty sure this barely scratches the surface of the waste we generate as a population.

If you’re in Australia, watch this show on iView. If you’re not… maybe the website will still be illuminating.

garbage-can-1111449_640

image from pixabay

The amount of waste produced in our society is horrifying. Even while I was patting myself on the shoulder for composting, rarely using single-use shopping bags, and wearing clothes more than once (I kid you not), my brain was whirring at all the wasteful activities I do regularly engage in — simply from laziness and a measure of ignorance.

Consider my pants kicked.

So I am waging my own war on waste, and I’m going to blog about it. Because we as a society need to be more mindful about just about everything — not only how we dispose of things we don’t need, but what we buy in the first place. And I believe talking about the measures we adopt in the quest for change is important.


First let’s talk about soft plastics

I’m pleased to report that I don’t often use single-use plastic shopping bags. For years and years I’ve used alternatives such as:

  • Reusable Envirosax shopping bags — I have at least one in my bag at all times (and they last YEARS)
  • A trolley on wheels — for when I’m buying more than one bag full
  • Supermarket ‘green bags’ — for when I have the car (which is rare)
  • Also, I don’t use plastic bags for fresh fruit and vegetables unless absolutely unavoidable

So far so good, right? Go me on the minimalist use of shopping bags!

[Side note: I’m appalled that Victoria is one of three Australian states that hasn’t banned plastic shopping bags. I didn’t actually realise other states had banned them, but full credit to them — and WTF, Victoria?]

envirosax

Envirosax shopping bags — don’t leave home without one!

But what I didn’t know is that I can recycle all manner of soft plastics via the RedCycle bins at Coles supermarkets. Any scrunchable plastic, in fact. It’s not just limited to plastic bags themselves. (Why don’t they promote this?)

So I have started putting these aside into… a plastic bag. And I’ve been astonished by how quickly it’s filled up. It contains:

  • plastic from around magazines in the mail
  • biscuit packet wrappers
  • plastic bags from my lite n easy delivery
  • chocolate wrappers
  • packaging from loose leaf spinach
  • toilet roll packaging
  • porridge/oatmeal sachets
  • peel-back seal from meat or fresh pasta trays
  • etc…

YOU GET THE IDEA! It feels as though every time I grab something it’s got soft plastic packaging associated with it. And all this packaging has previously been going into my rubbish bin, and subsequently to land fill.

soft plastics

All my soft plastics — check them out! (ugh)

Of course, now that I know I can recycle this, I will do so. But it seems to me it would be infinitely better to cut it off at the source.

My quest therefore is going to be figuring out how to buy stuff with less soft plastic packaging.

This is going to be difficult. But I remember, for example, there used to be toilet paper available in paper packaging. Is that still around?

And maybe I’ll have to stop buying individually wrapped food portions for the convenience and buy in bulk more. In fact, purchase fewer processed and packaged goods in general.

Soft plastics are insidious. They’re everywhere. They need to go!


I decided to kick off this series of posts with the problem of soft plastics, because it has been truly eye-opening how quickly that bag has filled up. But there are lots of other waste issues, and I’m planning to tackle them too.

Next up I’ll be road testing biodegradable coffee pods…

Study in Green (with lyrebirds)

After spending today in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, where all around is green, green, green, I’ve been inspired to participate in the current weekly photo challenge: Colour.

We had a lovely time strolling through the verdant Australian bush — past towering straight eucalyptus trees, vast sprays of tree ferns, flocks of squawking sulphur-crested cockatoos, crimson rosellas, galahs, tiny blue wrens. It was a gorgeous sunny autumn day and our route took us in and out of dappled shade, so we could both enjoy the sunshine and gain relief from it as well.

We even saw two Australian native lyrebirds scratching at the edge of the walking track. The male, with its magnificent tail, posed in full view then strutted into the bush at his leisure, tail dragging behind. Then we were treated to the wonderful lyrebird’s song. Lyrebirds are renowned for mimicking all sorts of sounds, including camera clicking, and we got the works. Had I been faster thinking I would have recorded it… I don’t think it’s very common to see lyrebirds in the wild, so we felt extremely privileged.

If you’re interested, here’s a You Tube clip to demonstrate:

It was so good to get away from the city for a day and fully appreciate nature, as well as embrace fresh air and exercise. We walked for over two hours — not an excessively long time, but more than we would have otherwise. (Let’s face it, I spend half my days writing in cafes at the moment!)

vanilla slice2

I should admit there were, ahem, two cafes today. Grant’s Picnic Ground at Kallista has the most amazing vanilla slices (right), so before our walk we fuelled up with one of these and a coffee for morning tea. And then after the walk we headed to Olinda for lunch.

But for the most part, it was all about the luscious green of the bush, as highlighted in my photo gallery — the first one I’ve attempted. These WordPress challenges are proving excellent at teaching me a thing or two about the features of WordPress!