Our hunt for a more sustainable pod

Posted on Posted in Behind the scenes, Coffee

Pods Kitchen-0920

For some coffee lovers, the single serve coffee machine is a blessing from above. And why not? It’s quick, convenient and now that companies like Pact are offering speciality options, you can enjoy a top-notch coffee at the touch of a button.

In the other camp, however, the environmental impact pods present sets internal alarm bells ringing. And the concerns we’ve heard from Pact customers about pod waste has not gone unnoticed.

In fact, it was a major consideration for us. Throughout the design process for our own NespressoⓇ-compatible pods, we were determined to come up with a more sustainable option. We soon realised, however, that the technology for creating biodegradable capsule casings just isn’t there yet. Basically, they had shortcomings that we just couldn’t ignore and if we’re to achieve our mission of making coffee a force for good, we need to provide people with better quality coffee that has a positive impact at origin. Our pods do just that by providing a great-tasting alternative to the big guys.

So we wanted to explain why, right now, they’re not an option for Pact, and how we ended up choosing the recyclable pods we currently use.

Our trials with biodegradable options

If you know anything about the research and development of Pact Pods, you’d know it was a long and considered process. As with everything we do, protecting the flavour and quality of our coffee is one of our top priorities and small changes to things like grind size and the materials we used could have a dramatic impact on flavour and freshness.

Screenshot 2015-11-06 at 11.29.27 AM
After experimenting with pod casings made from a starch-based polymer, we had high hopes. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to find they didn’t preserve any of the lovely flavours in the coffee. The reason for this is that they don’t provide a strong enough oxygen barrier, meaning air was able to infiltrate the casing. Bad news for freshness and flavour.

The fix for this? Pods made from this material come packaged in a sealed container, which, once opened, also lets oxygen in, damaging the remaining pods in the container. Can you see a pattern forming?

Another issue we found was that, if left in the machine after use (as pretty much all of us do), the pod quickly decomposes. It’s a good sign because it means they’re doing their job. But when it comes down to it, the machines broke. And no-one wants a soggy, impossible-to-remove pod getting stuck in that handy capsule machine of theirs.

Where we’re at…

So far, we haven’t found a pod casing that preserves the quality of our coffee in the same way our current capsules do. Made from polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), a food-grade type of plastic, the capsule itself is recyclable, as is the foil (plus, coffee makes a great compost). It also provides a really strong barrier to oxygen, which means the coffee comes out tasting as great as it did going in. All it takes to recycle responsibly is separating the parts, there are even easy-to-follow instructions on the inside of our 40 packs of pods. 

We’re not stopping there

It’s just not our style to rest on our laurels. Giving people the chance to indulge their coffee cravings is great, but we’re always trying to do better where we can and being as sustainable as possible is really important to us. Which is why we’ve chosen recyclable materials as we continue to search for better, environmentally sound alternatives.



4 thoughts on “Our hunt for a more sustainable pod

  1. Hi Pact,

    Just wanted to say that I am a loyal customer and really on board with the company’s mission statement. I do find it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to remove the coffee and separate plastic and foil, in order to recycle the pods. I doubt many people even do this.
    I know it is one of your mission statements to make high-quality coffee, but please can we make biodegradable pods a priority? I know I could switch a lot more people away from branded pods if this was possible. Great tasting coffee is a good selling point, but biodegradable pods would be a truly unique selling point! I like great coffee, which is why I moved to Pact coffee. All I want now is coffee without the guilt, or the hours of cleanup for recycling!

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for getting in touch and voicing your concern. We do encourage all of our customers to recycle the pods and we hope they’ll take that little bit of extra time to pop the separate parts in their right place.

      We would really love it if we could offer biodegradable pods, but as mentioned, we have tested the current materials on the market but have found that the technology just isn’t quite there yet. Please be assured that we are doing our best to improve everything that we do (our pods are no exception), and hopefully a biodegradable option is something we can offer in the future.

      Thanks for all your support!

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