Guilt-Free Coffee Pods

July 30, 2015

At the NAMA OneShow back in April, I noticed something interesting as I walked up and down the aisles. The number of single-serve pod and K-cup offerings had grown since the 2014 show. By a lot. As I looked more closely, I noticed that each brand was marketing itself as a “higher-end”, “quality” option, clearly a characteristic that consumers are craving these days. But there was something else that I noticed. The companies were promoting their environmental impact. Or lack thereof. See, many of the pods were marketed as “recyclable”, “biodegradable” or “compostable”.

I had heard of (and drank) guilt-free coffee before—the type of coffee with labels such as Fairtrade or Rain Forest Alliance Certified—but never had I seen such an emphasis placed on eco-friendly coffee pods/packaging solutions.

Compostable, biodegradable and recyclable pods are all possible “green” solutions for locations and while consumers may be asking for more eco-friendly coffee solutions, many might not be sure what is even available. Here are the differences between the three:


According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides” an item that is labeled “compostable” must have scientific evidence that the materials in the item break down, or become part of, usable compost in a safe and timely manner in a composting facility or home compost pile. Compostable items must break down completely and not release metals or toxins.


To be labeled “biodegradable”, a product must show reliable scientific evidence that the entire item will completely break down and return to nature (i.e., decompose into elements found in nature) within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.


“Recyclable” products are valid if they can be “collected, separated, or otherwise recovered from the waste stream through an established recycling program for reuse or use in manufacturing or assembling another item.”

There are a plethora of options for operators looking to offer products that are compostable, biodegradable or recyclable. We at update and add new products online each week in our Product Guide, so that would be a good place to start when researching single cup options.

As you’re discussing single serve offerings with a location, be prepared to answer questions on the environmental impact they may have—consumer awareness for ‘eco-friendly’ coffee pods is increasing and companies are answering that call. Just this year Club Coffee announced a 100 percent compostable pod and has partnered with Boyd’s Coffee and Copper Moon already.

The list of companies expanding to include eco-friendly option is growing, too, so look into your current OCS single serve offerings and educate yourself on whether or not they fall into any one of the eco-friendly options above.