Commentary – National standards required for recycling coffee pods and discs

Mac Olsen

Until recently, I took it for granted that the discs I use in my coffee maker go right into the garbage and then into the landfill.

But given a report I’ve seen about the calls for Keurig to recycle the plastic pods for their coffee makers, I think it’s time for national standards for the manufacturing and recycling of all coffee pods and discs.

The Financial Post had a story about this issue on Aug. 10, entitled ‘Keurig cleans up with ‘recyclable’ coffee pods – but it’s still trash.’

As per the story, Keurig Canada Inc. “has retooled its factory in St. Michel, a suburb of Montreal, to produce K-Cup pods in polypropylene No. 5, which is recyclable.”

The story also says that Halifax and some cities in British Columbia accept the pods for recycling, but Toronto and Montreal do not.

Check the Financial Post story for the seven-step process to recycle the Keurig plastic.

At least Keurig has made the effort to make the plastic pods recyclable. The plastic discs for my coffee maker are not recyclable; only the cardboard is.

Checking with the customer service department of my coffee maker, I told them about my desire to see them offer recyclable plastic packaging and they said they would submit my suggestion for review.

It’s not good enough that the manufactures of some coffee makers offer recyclable plastic packaging; this should extend to all companies that use plastic packaging and consumers should insist that they do so.

Moreover, all municipal recycling programs should be required to take all the types of plastic for recycling and national standards should be in place for this.

Municipalities such as Toronto and Montreal should not be allowed to choose only the types of plastic they want to recycle. If it’s a case of purchasing the required equipment for universal recycling programs and standards, then so be it.

Here in Alberta, the government has established a refundable deposit program for particular recyclable plastics such as milk jugs and soft drink bottles. But it should extend to the coffee pods and discs as well.

Another form of consumer packaging that is notorious for landfill usage is the pizza box. Currently, they can’t be recycled because the food product contaminates the cardboard surface.

But with consumer pressure, we can insist that paper product manufacturers invest in research and development of a recyclable pizza box. Companies involved in the pizza business should invest in this research and development as well, to demonstrate their good corporate citizenship.

I have no doubt that the economies of scale can be established to make it a viable product, and if required, impose a recycling fee to offset the costs. And like my call for national standards for municipalities to accept the recyclable plastic coffee pods and discs, it should be the same for pizza boxes.

In the end, universal standards are required to keep packaging for things like plastic coffee pods and discs out of the landfills. That is the way to get the most out of the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle.

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