A list of the best coffee pods for Keurig and Nespresso Machines that are compostable or recyclable. The pros and cons of each eco-friendly option explained.
I love the convenience of single serve coffee brewers like Keurig and Nespresso machines. The environmental impacts of single-use plastics? Not so much.
Since I didn’t want the guilt of tossing disposable K-Cups in the garbage every day, I did a ton of research on compostable and recyclable coffee pods to find the best option.
What I learned is there is no simple answer to whether compostable or recyclable k-cups are better for the environment. There are pros and cons to using each type of single-serve coffee pods.
If you’re trying to choose the best coffee pods for your eco-friendly lifestyle, I’ve done the research to help make it easier for you. Read the whole post or jump to the section you’re most interested in.
What Does Compostable Mean?
Compostable means the material is certified to break back down into soil under the right conditions. There are 2 types of compostable materials:
- Industrial certified compostable materials need to be composted at a special facility.
- Home certified compostable materials are certified to break down in a home compost pile. ‘
Coffee pods fall in the second category. They need to be taken to a commercial composting facility in order to break down into organic matter.
Few people have access to these types of municipal food waste programs, so it makes you wonder…
Can you compost coffee pods at home?
Compostable K-Cups typically will not break down in a home compost pile. There are currently no coffee pods certified for home composting.
The Tayst website says some home composters do have success composting coffee pods. However, it takes much longer than it would at an industrial facility and some of them shred the pods first so they break down faster. There’s no guarantee it’ll work.
If there isn’t an industrial composting facility near you, compostable may not necessarily be better than recyclable. You need to weigh the options based on your own circumstances.
Is compostable different than biodegradable?
Compostable coffee pods turn back into soil when they are properly composted. Biodegradable K Cups are designed to break down faster than normal in a landfill.
You put biodegradable pods directly into the garbage. They can’t be composted.
I don’t see many coffee pod companies in the United States making biodegradable claims because it’s not that exciting to say, “put this in your normal trash.” If you think you’re looking for biodegradable coffee pods, you should probably look for compostable pods instead.
What Does Recyclable Mean?
In the case of coffee pods, recyclable means that you can put them in your home recycling bin that’s picked up by the city. You do have to empty the coffee grounds from the pods before recycling them so a lot of people just trash them.
I do not include special recycling programs that are only available in select areas as recyclable.
Which Coffee Pods are More Eco-Friendly?
Knowing that one option isn’t necessarily better for the environment, I put together a list of the best compostable and recyclable coffee pods for coffee lovers. The original list was focused on Keurig compatible coffee capsules because that’s what I’ve been using for a long time.
However, I’ve had an increase in questions about Nespresso Pods. While I don’t have a Nespresso machine myself (I have my eye on this Nespresso machine), I added a section below about eco-friendly espresso pod options.
If your area has industrial / curbside compost services, compostable pods are the most eco-friendly choice. However, if you don’t, you’re probably better off going with recyclable (and actually recycling them).
Compostable Keurig Pods
There are a ton of compostable K-Cups available now and most of them use the same pod technology that needs to be sent to an industrial facility (unless you want to try the hack mentioned above). Here are a few of my favorite single serve coffee brands.
Glory Brew Compostable Pods
I really like Glory Brew from Gourmesso – their coffee pod subscription service is convenient and reasonably priced. The coffee tastes great and they have multiple flavor and strength options (from light to dark roast and everything in between).
I like The Duke medium roast for an everyday coffee.
Their pods are Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified, which is what you want to look for to know it’s going to completely decompose when sent to an industrial compost facility.
Current Special: Buy 10 boxes, get 2 free at Gourmesso.com with code EARTHDAY. Offer expires 05/06/2021.
Tayst Compostable Coffee Pods
Tayst also has great coffee pods that are roasted fresh every month. They are completely plastic free and compostable in industrial facilities.
The Tayst coffee subscription is simple and affordable. You start by choosing how many cups per month you want. Then you choose your favorite flavors and strengths – mix and match as much as you want.
Your selected coffee pods show up at your door each month. Learn more about the Tayst coffee club.
San Francisco Bay Coffee
The first compostable brand I tried was San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee. You can order SF Bay Coffee Pods from Walmart – I like their Organic Rainforest alliance certified blend and the SF Bay Variety Pack is a great way to sample different flavors.
Recyclable Keurig Coffee Pods
Recyclable coffee pods pretty much all use the same packaging technology, so it’s more about the grounds inside. There are some pretty delicious coffee brands out there.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Purity Recyclable Coffee Pods
- Bulletproof Single Serve Coffee Pods
- Marley Coffee One Love
- Illy Medium Roast Coffee
- Newman’s Own Special Blend
- Green Mountain Breakfast Blend
Cross Country Cafe does a monthly giveaway of recyclable Keurig coffee pods! Enter the giveaway here.
Compostable Nespresso Pods
One of the best choices for compostable Nespresso Pods is also Gourmesso. You can see a great comparison between Nespresso and Gourmesso pods.
All of their Eco Line pods are free of plastic and aluminum. There are 5 varieties of espresso to choose from in compostable packaging. All of them are fair trade and some are organic.
Like the K-Cups, compostable Nespresso Pods are only compostable at industrial facilities. They aren’t designed to break down with organic materials in your backyard compost.
Check out the full line of Gourmesso Eco Pods to see all of the flavors and strengths.
Recyclable Nespresso Pods
Nespresso pods are typically made from aluminum, not plastic. These Nespresso pods are only recyclable at special drop off points – not at home.
Fortunately, there are some brands making recyclable Nespresso pods that can be put in your recycling bin. One brand using recyclable materials is Gourmesso. Their BPA free plastic pods can be recycled at home.
Gourmesso has even more varieties of espresso in recyclable pods than their compostable ones.
Reusable Pods for Ground Coffee
Another alternative to buying disposable coffee pods is to use a reusable coffee pod. You pack these stainless steel or plastic cups with your own coffee grounds each morning, and then wash them between uses.
If you only drink one cup of coffee a day, this can be a convenient option since you’ll only need one Reusable Single Cup from Coffee Wholesale USA. If you drink more than that, it can be a pain to keep cleaning out the pod between uses so you may want to get a 6-pack of Reusable Cups instead.
Coupon Code: Get 10% off at Coffee Wholesale USA with coupon code happymothering.
You can also purchase reusable cups for Nespresso machines at Walmart.
Bonus: Eco-Friendly Tea Capsules
There are lots of tea options available for Keurig machines too. Cross Country Cafe has popular brands like Celestial Seasonings and Twinings in a variety of flavors. Be sure to check out all the Tea K-Cups at Cross Country Cafe.
As you can see, you can use a single cup coffee brewer like this space saving Keurig machine and still reduce your carbon footprint. I hope you discovered a new coffee (or tea) brand to try on this list.