A commenter said it best:"All this fawning over recycle, while we throw "reduce" and "reuse" under the bus."

Or….What You Don’t Want For Christmas: A Single Serve Pod Coffee Maker

Lloyd Alter
Sustainable Product Design

Nestle/Promo image
There are some things that I will never understand, and near the top of the list is pod coffee products like Nespresso and Tassimo. That’s where people buy coffee makers that lock them in to the purchase of pods from the manufacturer at surprisingly high prices. When I first reviewed the Tassimo I called it
a design for unsustainability.

Now, instead of having the choice of whatever coffee you want you pay almost a buck per hit of their choice of brand, and a little plastic and paper turd to throw in the garbage after. In the end, in the name of convenience, we have a machine that creates a captive audience for an overpriced coffee system that creates unnecessary waste.

This shopping season, there is a big push to sell them in North America. Why now? According to the Wall Street Journal, it saves people money because it keeps them out of coffee joints:

The onslaught of advertising comes as consumers remain cautious about spending. Single-cup coffee typically costs less than $1 a serving, but consumers have to spend between $100 and $400 on the machines. There are also upscale models that cost well above $500….Still, food companies and analysts say consumers may be more willing to make coffee at home rather than buying it from local cafes.

Edward Tenner at the Atlantic thinks that’s ridiculous.

But does cost saving really explain it? In high-rent Princeton, N.J. Starbucks is still charging only $1.50 plus tax for a cup of drip coffee, slightly more for a single-shot espresso. That makes the $1.00 pods not such a convincing bargain, unless you prefer the taste of pod coffee to coffee house brew. And if you’re willing to do a little grinding you can buy a one-cup filter cone, including travel mug, for under $5.00

It is just another example where convenience trumps economy or concern for the environment; it is just easier. As far as the environment is concerned, people are happy to be greenwashed. In Britain, where they never knew how to make a good cup of coffee, the Nespresso machine is hugely popular. The have sold 26.9 billion coffee capsules and 13 million coffee machines since 1986. They make a huge deal of their ecological performance, building a whole website promoting ecolaboration. They will actually pick up your used pods at your door when they deliver your next batch of pods. Because under the normal recycling system, they are an unrecyclable mix of aluminum and plastic. According to a press release I just received:

Nespresso’s new initiative provides a ‘Doorstep Collection Service’ picking up all used coffee capsules with the home delivery of each new order of Grands Crus coffees direct to Club Members. Furthermore, select Nespresso Boutiques have a collection point in Selfridges stores where used capsules can be deposited and will soon be rolled out across other Nespresso Boutiques.

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