Coffee discs and cups – what convenience means to waste management

canada_coffeeCanadians love their coffee!

According to one study, 65% of Canadians drink coffee daily, and 51% of coffee drinkers drink their coffee at home. Preparing your coffee at home is good for the environment because there’s no disposable cup that needs to be thrown away after visiting a coffee shop.

However, we’re now experiencing a change in the way people make coffee at home.

In the recent past, people used French-presses or “drip” coffee machines to make their morning cup of joe. When using these methods, the leftover coffee grinds and used paper filters can go in the GreenCart for composting.

But now we’re seeing the rising popularity of “disc” and “cup” coffee systems. Pop the pre-packaged disc or cup into the machine, and presto, you’ve got coffee. What could be more simple?

While these systems may be easy and convenient, from a waste management perspective, they are quite wasteful. For every coffee you drink, you now have a disc or cup that needs to be thrown away.

But where do you throw them out?

Plastic cup in the Blue Box, paper filter and coffee grinds in the GreenCart, and seal in the garbage.

Plastic cup in the Blue Box, paper filter and coffee grinds in the GreenCart, and seal in the garbage.

Well, you actually have to take those discs and cups apart! The empty plastic disc or cup goes into the Blue Box. The grinds go in the GreenCart. If the filter is paper, it goes in the GreenCart, but if the filter is mesh or plastic, it goes in the garbage. The foil seal — which can be tricky to remove — goes in the garbage.

We’re also starting to see discs and cups that are made from “compostable” plastics. However, these cause even more problems — they can’t be recycled and they can’t be composted. They need to go in the garbage.

The good news is, we’re also seeing some manufacturers introducing reusable cups that can be used, washed and used again. This is a great development! Remember, when it comes to the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — reuse is better than recycling.

So next time you make yourself a coffee, ask yourself “I am doing my part to minimize waste?”

About John Watson

I'm a communicator, educator and project manager with a focus on environmental and public works issues. I am currently the Environmental Manager for the Municipality of Dysart et al in Haliburton County. Previously, I was the Onboarding Director for ReCollect Systems, where I implemented digital communication products for municipalities and non-profits. For eight years, I was the Waste Diversion Educator Coordinator for Halton Region, where I implemented award winning communications and outreach programs.
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3 Responses to Coffee discs and cups – what convenience means to waste management

  1. Polarkiwi says:

    We use a Tassimo and have tried to take the used t-discs apart to dispose of correctly but were unable to peel off the foil lid. Consequently, we throw the discs into the garbage. Is there a special trick we don’t know about to remove the foil so we can put the coffee or tea grounds into the compost and the plastic part into the recycling?

    • Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, there’s no trick. It’s probably best to use a fork and knife to try to take the t-discs apart.

      – John Watson, Waste Diversion Education Coordinator, Halton Region

  2. Mary Bradley says:

    Nespresso capsules are aluminum. Can we put them in the blue box once the coffee grounds are removed.

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