There has been some confusion and misinformation about what biodegradable and compostable mean, so I’ve put together this blog to compare the two and explain why we choose to use oxo-biodegradable pods.
Let's start with compostable materials...
There are currently two types of compostable material: industrial certified compostable and home certified compostable. Industrial certified compostable material is the most commonly used, especially in the pod market.
So, what does this mean?
Industrial certified pods break down much faster than conventional materials, but only in specific conditions and environments. An industrial composting facility exposes them to high temperatures and different bacteria and also aerates the materials for sufficient oxidization.
This sounds great, so what’s the issue?
There are limited facilities in Australia and only certain councils can access them. There is also very limited infrastructure for green waste and if pods find themselves in there, the facility must send the whole lot to landfill as they are unable to separate the pods from the rest of the green waste. In landfill, the pods and green waste break down and create methane gas and carbon dioxide into the environment (greenhouse gases – which a commercial composting facility would capture).
What is the solution?
It is unlikely that the government will add more industrial composting facilities, so the next option is home certified compostable pods. These pods don’t require the same process as Industrial certified compostable pods and can be put in a home compost bin. This still requires your compost to be mixed, aerated and contains a mix of waste products e.g. dead leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable waste.
So why don't we all use 'home' certified compostable pods?
Home certified compostable technology is still in the beginning stages and there are some limiting factors. This new technology is expensive and the costs trickle down to the consumer. There is also a challenge with the product design, as home certified compostable materials aren’t strong and can’t always withstand the pressure in a pod machine. The pods can also start breaking down before they are used, causing the pod to break and the coffee to oxidize and affecting the taste. Despite this, we are constantly researching new technologies and ways to make home compostable pods a possibility.
What are the alternatives?
The alternatives are conventional plastic pods and aluminium, which can’t be recycled in your home recycling bin. Some pod businesses have set up collection system to collect and recycle them for you, but sadly only a very small percentage of the pods go to these systems.
This is why we choose biodegradable pods…
We’ve chosen to use oxo-biodegradable materials because they break down in roughly 2 years in landfill. This is because as much as we’d love to make the switch to home compostable materials, they not quite ready for the job. We have more information on how our biodegradable pods break down here: https://www.urbanbrew.co/blog/biodegradability/
We are aware of the effects of pods, and we will always look for ways to improve and be more conscious of the environment. Biodegradable is a far better choice over aluminium pods and is the best option for us at this stage. I hope this clears things up for everyone!
Toby Strong (aka The Podfather)
Founder & Customer Happiness Specialist