Capsules are currently one of the most popular options among the population for coffee. Although its price is higher than that of other methods, capsules have gained popularity in the last decade, since they allow you to enjoy delicious coffee in a matter of seconds. However, in addition to having a large number of fans, it also has detractors.
These place special emphasis on the environmental problems of this method, due to the waste that discarded capsules entail. However, they may not be as bad for the planet as they seem: a study from the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi (Canada) says that packaging is not to blame for damaging the environment, as previously thought.
Coffee packaging, a less important aspect than previously thought
In this study, the researchers focus on the useful life of the product, which spans from the time it is manufactured until it reaches the landfill, to decide what changes could improve its sustainability. Shelie Miller, professor of sustainable systems at the University of Michigan, says: “As a consumer, what we are left with is the visible waste in front of us, and that often tends to be packaging and plastics (…) but the The impact of the packaging, in general, is much, much less than the product itself.”
This study has focused on four preparation techniques for this popular drink, discovering that instant coffee produces few emissions as long as the correct amounts of water and coffee are used. The small amount of instant coffee per cup, together with the use of the kettle, makes this method a sustainable option, since it uses less electricity than a traditional coffee maker.
On the other hand, traditional filter coffee has the highest carbon footprint, since it uses more ground beans to prepare the same amount of coffee. In addition, this method consumes more electricity when it comes to heating the water and keeping it warm. Therefore, according to the experts in this study, the best way to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee consumption is simple: avoid wasting coffee and water.
Experts point out that if a person uses 20% more instant coffee, heating twice as much water, they would be damaging the environment to a greater extent than if they used a coffee capsule machine, whose design is aimed at the least possible waste.
Andrea Hicks, an environmental engineering expert at the University of Wisconsin, notes, “Often people assume that something reusable is always better, and sometimes it is, but people don’t really think about human behavior.” This refers to the amount of coffee that can be drunk, since if the person drinks two instead of one cup, they would be losing the benefits of the capsule method.
High GHG emission
The production of coffee itself, the most harmful step for the environment
Another aspect to take into account is the way in which electricity is generated. The study reveals that a cup of coffee prepared with electricity derived from fossil fuels produces about 48 grams of CO2, while a cup prepared with renewable energy can emit approximately 2 grams of CO2. A difference to take into account.
It is common for the rejection of plastic to make the population focus its concern on the packaging of the products we consume. However, according to the study, it is not the most important thing. In the case of coffee, the environmental effects derive from the production of the beans and the energy needed to prepare this drink. In this way, the production of coffee itself is the phase that emits the most greenhouse gases.
Still, experts recommend recycling used capsules or changing reusable ones if we want to do our bit. In addition, Miller advises reducing consumption in general, always trying to be as efficient as possible with the resources you have. The expert affirms that the solution lies in being aware of the products that are consumed and trying not to waste them.