My work has a really awesome single serving coffee maker. And although I can get any number of different beverages on demand, I feel a little guilty because the system creates a huge amount of waste. Each packet is just discarded after use. I saw nothing on the system about recycling so I emailed the company.
Here is their absurdly thorough response:
Thank you for contacting FLAVIA Beverage Systems with your inquiry. We appreciate hearing from you and will be happy to address your concern. Recycling of filterpacks is difficult because of the composite structure necessary to achieve the oxygen protection designed to ensure every cup of coffee is fresh when brewed. There is a common misconception that a sealed plastic container or bag is “air tight”. Products like coffee are very oxygen sensitive and require much higher protection than can be achieved with simple materials. The thickness of our pack is less than one tenth of one millimetre. To achieve the same oxygen barrier with material used in freezer bags for example would require a bag 100 millimetres thick, about the width of the average hand. It is technically possible to separate the FLAVIA waste into its component parts but this requires very specialised equipment. There is no infrastructure available at present to make this approach feasible even if it were sensible to do this with respect to the resources required versus what can be recovered. We therefore believe the best disposal route for FLAVIA waste is through incineration with energy recovery. We have designed our materials to be extremely low in materials that cause concern in incineration and as a result used packs burn cleanly in modern incinerators. Where there are no incineration facilities then remaining materials typically go to landfill. Because the FLAVIA packs are made from very stable materials, used packs are safe to dispose of in landfill without producing harmful emissions and breakdown products. We are often asked about biodegradable packaging. At present the technology does not exist to make a FLAVIA pack from biodegradable materials that could be safely composted for instance. We keep this under constant review and have experimented with many materials and will continue to review the applicability of new materials using this technology. Once again, thank you for contacting FLAVIA Beverage Systems. Please feel free to contact us again should you need further assistance. Have a great day! Sincerely, Customer Care FLAVIA Beverage Systems
Now I do appreciate that, but if they spent just as much time trying to solve this recycling conundrum as writing that email, we’d be heading in the right direction.