Ever wonder how much waste comes from using single-serve coffee and tea pods or capsules such as those from Nespresso, Dolce Gusto, Keurig, Lavazza, or Starbucks?
The short answer is a lot.
The reason is not that those brands’ products are not recyclable (though some are not ‘easily’ recyclable), but more so because the omen is on the consumers to take the capsules apart and separate the components to recycle them properly.
Consumers need to remove the foil top and filter, and then throw out the coffee grounds. They need to rinse the capsule before recycling them (whether locally, by mail, or via the coffee maker center). For most people, this process becomes too cumbersome, and the capsules simply end up in the trash can.
But there’s good news on the horizon. Smile Coffee Werks was founded in 2019 out of the desire to develop sustainable coffee cups and pods, with no or minimum carbon footprint.
The company has developed commercially compostable, plant-based, and carbon-neutral coffee pods that consumers can just toss into their trash cans or compost containers.
“Traditional plastic and aluminum K-cups and Nespresso coffee pods are largely sent to landfills where the materials persist for hundreds of years,” say the co-founders Frank Schuster and Michael Sands on the company’s website. “SBW (Smile Beverage Werks) has created a product that tastes exceptional, works in the machines already on your counters, and can be commercially composted.”
The Smile Coffee Werks coffee pods are moisture-resistant and oxygen-tight capsules that can stay fresh on shelves for 12-plus months. The pods are made of plant-based materials that compost in 12 weeks. This eliminates the need for coffee producers to use metal or plastic in the manufacture of pods.
Currently, there are three flavors available in the K-Cup line of coffee brewers that use compostable pods: Werkday, Woke Up, and Laugh to Decaf. Consumers can also choose from five Smile Coffee Werks flavors that are compatible with Nespresso Original Brewers: Espresso, LaCrema, Lungo, Ristretto, and Decaf.
The company announced that it signed a sales agreement with Pod Pack International, a major manufacturer of single-serve coffee and tea pods. Under the agreement, Pod Pack will now be producing Smile’s plant-based, compostable and carbon-neutral pods.
“The Team at Pod Pack is excited to partner with Smile to bring this innovative solution to the single-serve coffee and tea marketplace,” said Pod Pack CEO Marion Gray. “This allows Pod Pack to expand our market-leading offering of compostable single-serve products.”
The pods are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), USDA Biobased, and Carbon Neutral. They are fully compostable products, including the film, and are delivered in recyclable cartons.
For its groundbreaking invention, Smile also recently won the compostability category for the first-ever U.S. Plastics Pact Sustainable Packaging Innovation Award. The prize goes to companies that eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging and replace it with 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable materials.
In addition, Smile also developed fully compostable single-use plant-based straws that are superior to the currently available plastic-free straws.
“The innovative technology used to create our straws has the ability to alter the single-use plastic industry altogether,” said co-founder Schuster. “These straws demonstrate the durability, effectiveness, and convenience of our plant-based material.”