Words by Colin Pyle, CEO of CRU Kafe
Paper, plastic, metal, bamboo, corn-starch, vegetable; you name it, we’ve seen a coffee pod made from it. But after hundreds of prototypes and nearly 3 years of research, we’ve made the decision to make CRU Kafe aluminium. It’s not only better for the environment, but better for you - and your Nespresso® machine - as well.
How we made our decision...
To make it clear exactly how we came to our decision, the main areas we looked at were recyclability, compatibility, and the ability to keep our coffee fresh (for the sake of ease, I’ll be referring to this last one as ‘taste’). Briefly, our findings can be seen in the table below...
As you can see, aluminium comes out on top on every test. Now, I realise this is a bit of an over-simplification of a process that's taken over 2 years - so you'll find more information below on each of the contenders; Aluminium, Plastic & Compostable.
W H Y - A L U M I N I U M . . .
With 100% Aluminium, comes 100% recyclability. It's the most valuable material in your recycling bin, and - unlike plastic - there's no decay in quality. Infinitely recyclable and highly durable, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today - and it's one of the only materials in the consumer disposal stream that more than pays for the cost of its own collection.
From a compatibility point of view, no other pod touches it. If you’re looking for pour after pour of beautiful, crema-topped espresso, then aluminium is your go-to. Our recyclable pods held their own, but this was largely due to our un-recyclable foil top - a element that we’ve been looking to replace since we started making them.
Both compostable and recyclable pods have another huge problem - and that's keeping the coffee they contain fresh. Our new Aluminium pods are completely sealed, which means once they're out of the packet, they stay fresher for longer.
Another huge benefit of our new barrier-proofed capsules is that it means we can finally do away with our wasteful outer-packaging - meaning that everything that's delivered to your door (from the pod to the box it came in) can be recycled.
W H Y - N O T - C O M P O S T A B L E . . .
Close, But No Cigar...
Our biggest hope over the last couple of years is that we could give our customers a pod that they could simply throw away with their normal rubbish, safe in the knowledge that it will degrade and disappear in a matter of weeks.
Unfortunately, this pod has yet to materialise.
Besides the compatibility issues that we experienced with virtually every compostable pod that we tried, the real deciding factor came when we drilled down into exactly how the pods could be composted - with our research showing that even with the best of intentions, only 15% of capsules would composted correctly.
This isn’t to say that we’ve stopped looking for a compostable alternative - compostable is obviously an avenue that we’d love to get into, but only when we find the right pod.
W H Y - N O T - P L A S T I C . . .
Waste, waste and more waste...
Another direction that we were looking to go was the recyclable route. Again, compatibility and consistency was a problem, but just like the compostable options, the biggest problem we were faced with the problem of putting promises on paper into practice on the ground.
Our old process of scraping off the foil lid, scooping out the coffee and rinsing the pod clean before putting it into the recycling was, if we're being completely honest, just a bit too much to ask when we’re meant to be delivering simplicity in a cup. On top of that, there’s still the problem of the foil and and the outer packaging - both of which were unrecyclable - and for me, unacceptable in the long term.