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Opinion
Adam Minter

No, Coffee Pods Aren't Killing the Planet

Single-serve coffee machines may actually be more environmentally friendly.
All the capsules Nespresso's ever sold still add up to a fraction of annual waste.

All the capsules Nespresso's ever sold still add up to a fraction of annual waste.

Photographer: Adrian Moser/Bloomberg

Drowsy German bureaucrats in Hamburg will soon have one less option for a mid-afternoon caffeine jolt, after the city banned single-serve coffee machines such as Nespresso from government buildings. The new regulations have a worthy purpose. They hope to defend the environment, under the assumption that the use and disposal of thousands of tiny coffee capsules or pods leads to "unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation.”

A backlash against coffee pods has been, ahem, brewing for awhile. According to a statistic cited by everyone from the Atlantic magazine to National Public Radio, Green Mountain spit out 8.5 billion of its K-cup coffee pods in 2013 -- enough to circle the earth 10.5 times. Campaigns, petitions, and high-minded op-eds have attacked such profligacy, turning the humble coffee pod into an environmental bogeyman on par with bottled water.