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Helping reduce plastic pollution with just a cup of coffee

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 12:17 pm PST

Dr. Zac Hudson from the University of British Columbia shows off a new compostable coffee pod on Feb. 22, 2021. (CREDIT: University of British Columbia)

VANCOUVER (660 NEWS) – Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental concerns as increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them.

Now, a professor from the University of British Columbia (UBC) is helping to tackle the problem, and it all starts with your morning cup of coffee.

Dr. Zac Hudson believes enjoying your cup of Joe should be strong and guilt-free, so the UBC scientist has spent the last three years creating a fully compostable coffee pod that disintegrates in just over a month.

“Over 40 billion single-serve coffee pods are discarded to the landfill every year,” said Hudson. “Virtually all of these are not recyclable, not compostable, not biodegradable, they’re just going straight to the landfill where they take anywhere between 500 and 10,000 years to breakdown.”

The NEXE pod, which composts completely in as little as 35 days are made from two specially engineered components: an outer fibre jacket and a bioplastic inner capsule designed to break down into carbon dioxide, water and organic biomass, leaving no microplastic behind.

In order to create a fully compostable pod, Dr. Hudson said he had to create an entirely new bioplastic.

He admits, there have been numerous challenges in creating this new type of plastic.

“You think of all sorts of plastic products from toothbrushes to clamshell packaging to coffee pods that are made with conventional plastic and how to process those at high speeds and make hundreds of millions of them is very understood. How to do that with compostable, plant based material is very difficult.”

Hudson also noted they weren’t the first ones to enter the market with compostable coffee pods but what set them apart was creating the pod while keeping the coffee as fresh as possible.

The pods are compatible with all Keurig brewers and launched commercially this month. The products sold out in one day.

The company, NEXE Innovations, recently announced Nespresso-compatible pods are set to begin production later in 2021.

“Coffee drinkers are very discerning,” said Hudson. “If you make a product that is good for the planet, but the coffee tastes bad, they’re going to lose interest pretty quickly,” said Dr. Hudson. “We want our pods to be the best of both.”