Coffee lovers sure do enjoy their coffee delivered single-serve style. Worldwide sales of coffee capsules are estimated at about $10 billion, according to Euromonitor. But since the cups contain multiple layers: a plastic outer layer, a heat-sealed paper filters on the inside and a polyethylene-coated aluminum foil top, the cups can't be recycled as a whole unit.
Even though people enjoy their coffee in this form of packaging, customers have expressed concerned about its lack of recyclability. But those concerns might ease with the launch of the EcoCup, a new recyclable capsule that's compatible with all K-cup brewers.
Launched by Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, the capsules are initially available for loose-leaf tea brands, including Higgins & Burke on-sale now and Numi coming in the summer. EcoCup capsules with single-serve coffee brands, including Marley Coffee, will be available in 2015.
"While other companies are aiming to offer recyclable capsules by 2020, our EcoCup capsule launch for loose-leaf tea is the first step in making this a present-day reality. In just months we'll reach our next milestone of bringing EcoCup to single-serve coffee," says Bill VandenBygaart, VP of business development. "This is the type of game-changing innovation that results from open competition and consumers are the ones who benefit. There are billions of capsules thrown into landfill each year. We will change that."
The 2020 comment is most likely directed at coffee giant Keurig, which has pledged that by 2020 all K-cup packs used with its machine will be 100% recyclable.
"The challenge of protecting the freshness of roasted coffee while using environmentally friendly packaging is one that both Keurig and the coffee industry are committed to overcoming," Keurig states on its website. "We are very sensitive about the waste created by the K-cup packs and are investigating alternative materials. Finding a solution for this is a priority for us, and one we hope to have before long."
What's interesting is that the EcoCup is made with clear polystyrene, #6 plastic, which historically has been a bit confusing regarding its recyclability. But Mother Parkers claims it's easy to recycle the EcoCup capsule, as consumers just pull off the top with a tab, recycle the cup and dispose of the tea and the filter. The company says the EcoCupcapsule is BPA-free and accepted in many curbside-recycling programs across the country.
"One of the top three challenges for consumers when it comes to adopting single-serve capsules is in the impact on the environment," said VandenBygaart. "We wanted to make sure that consumers didn't have to sacrifice being good to the planet for the sake of convenience and a great-tasting beverage."
The company said that they are open to sharing the EcoCup innovation with other single-serve manufacturers.