Compostable Capsules Most Sustainable Option for Single-Serve Coffee Units

Wageningen University & Research has found that compostable plastic capsules are the most sustainable option for single serve coffee capsules, considering both material circularity and greenhouse gas emissions. The study, which uses the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI), quantifies the circularity of materials, including recycling rates, recycled content, recycling process yield, biobased content, reusability, and average lifespan. Compostable capsules are 100% fully circular when composted, and can be kept in the loop by being organically recycled. Aluminum capsules are a second-best choice if collected separately through mono-collection systems, but their MCI is lower (around 60%) compared to compostable capsules. Conventional fossil-based plastics do not fit in a circular economy, as neither plastic capsules nor spent coffee grounds are recycled. The research included various end-of-life scenarios, including industrial composting, recycling via light-weight packaging waste collection, incineration with energy recovery, landfill with energy recovery, and mono-collection for aluminum capsules.

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