The Quest for the Ultimate Cup of Coffee: Solving the Coffee Capsule Waste Problem

If you drink coffee, you’ve seen the rise of capsules or pods over the last decade with the popularity of Keurig or Nespresso capsules that make it easy to make a cup of coffee or espresso with a small plastic or aluminum package. These capsules allow the flexbility of choice since every user can insert their preference. They have other advantages since there is nothing to clean after making coffee, they allow one cup to be made at a time so you don’t have to drink hours old coffee left in a pot, or have to make a pot of coffee just to have one cup of coffee.

These positives are balanced with a major problem. The plastic Keurig pods are made with #7 composite plastic that is not recyclable and thus end up in landfills. This amounts to more than 10 billion plastic pods a year that end up in landfills and if lined up end to end would circle the equator more than 10 times. Aluminum Nespresso capsules have similar problems. The aluminum is itself recyclable but the capsules must be collected, shipped to a central processing facility, and grinds separated from aluminum before recycling. All of this requires additional energy consumption and only a small fraction of the billions of aluminum capsules are actually recycled. The city of Hamburg actually banned Nespresso capsules from city buildings. Though single serve coffee pods are similar to single serve packaging of all sorts of food items ranging from a can of coke to a candy bar, the coffee industry can and should hold itself to a higher standard.

After all the work packaging coffee grounds in pods, is the coffee any better? Well actually no — it’s actually pretty terrible. Coffee in capsules is barely better than coffee grounds in tins from a 100 years ago. Take a look at the freshness index of coffee types in the graph to the left from our previous post. So all this work and waste has done nothing to make your coffee better.

What if we can have the best of all worlds? Convenience of choice with nothing to clean, no waste, and the ultimate cup of coffee made just for you? This has been the holy grail of the coffee industry and it hasn’t been possible until now with Seva Coffee. We looked at coffee from a new perspective and found the ultimate solution. We start with raw green coffee beans and roast, grind & brew every cup personalized to you. Raw green coffee beans are shelf stable and last for two years with minimal packaging. Thus we made a fully compostable capsule containing the finest single origin green coffee beans from around the world. The capsule is made from natural plant fibers that are compostable and come from the leftover stream of other farming processes.

As we developed the capsule we realized the power of Re. Simply put, it is the words: 1) Re-use, 2) Re-purpose, 3) Re-cycle, 4) Trash (ok the last word isn’t Re). The highest use of a processed material is to be Re-used in some function (eg a shoebox that is re-used); second is when a material is Re-purposed (eg a paper bag that is used as a shopping bag; re-use and re-purpose are very close); third is re-cycling (eg paper products recycled to make cardboard); and of course last is ending up in the trash in a landfill. So we started to think about the highest use of our spent coffee capsules and realized that with a compostable capsule and spent coffee grounds as fertilizer, we have the best planter possible. And thus we grow plants in spent coffee capsules. No waste and a potential liability becomes a net positive all done locally with no extra transport or energy expended. We believe this is the future of coffee — come sign up and join the journey for the best cup of coffee.

Plants growing in spent compostable coffee capsules.