The coffee pod debacle


Last week I posted a video on Facebook about coffee pods and was surprised to learn that there are a lot of people out there that, like me, also think that they are a disaster. I also learnt that there are a lot of die-hard fans of the pods that will passionately defend them! The video has had over 450 shares and 73,000 views, so obviously it’s something people want to hear about.

In my video, which I’ve posted below for you, I explain that coffee pods are made with plastic and that when plastic is heated it leaches up to 55 times more endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA into your drink. These chemicals have been associated with infertility, high blood pressure, learning difficulties and breast cancer to name a few. More research needs to be done in this area, but there are so many studies linking BPA to adverse health effects that I believe we need to do all that we can to avoid them.

On the other side of the coin – pods are an environmental disaster. They are everything that is wrong with our throwaway society – single-use items that will end up in landfill forever.

Estimates have been that there are enough K-cups (the original US coffee pod brand) to circle the globe more than 12 times if you place them side-by-side. Those cups are tiny, so that is a lot of landfill!

In fact the creator of Keurig cups, the first pod coffee machine has this to say about inventing the machines:

“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it”

In the hundreds of comments that came up in my video, there were a few that questioned the validity of my claims. Fair enough – my video was only 2 minutes after all and I didn’t go into a lot of detail. Here are some of the questions/comments that came up and my response:

"I use nespresso pods – they are made of aluminum, not plastic"

True this – nespresso pods are made with alumunium, which is coated in food grade shellac. I have this to say about nespresso pods:

  • Alumunium is also toxic to our health, and although it is coated with Shellac it is still pierced with hot water going through the holes in the other side.
  • The internals of a nespresso machine are still made from plastic, which stores and heats the water. There are numerous accounts of people having to use their new coffee machine for several weeks before the plastic taste has gone – and just because the taste is gone it does not mean that it is no longer leaching plastic chemicals into your water.
Nespresso has a recycling program so they aren’t bad for the environment.

Yes, nespresso does have a recycling program, which would be great, if it wasn’t just a load of greenwashing. They set recycling targets but in reality, very few are actually recycled in the end. Plus they are not suitable for recycling in our home bins even if they are torn open and the coffee is separated (even the most committed environmentalist would hard up doing this).

You also need to consider that manufacture of these pods requires mining up the alumunium and manufacturing – and with every kilogram of coffee requiring 2 kilograms of packaging you can see this isn’t the most environmentally friendly way to go.

There is no evidence of them being harmful – if there was it would have to say so on the product disclosure statement

Coffee pods have not individually been studied for their toxicity. However, their components, which are plastic or alumunium have been well studied and found to definitely affect human health. Ignoring this evidence is burying your head in the sand, as it is freely available via PubMed and other online journals.

The crux of the matter is that single-use coffee cups and pods are harmful to your health and the environment. Use a plunger, percolator or espresso machine instead, please.


Learn more about ‘How environmental toxins can affect your health – and what you can do to reduce their impact‘ in Episode 7 of Season One of The Shift podcast here.  

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Katherine Maslen


Hey, I’m Katherine Maslen, naturopath, nutritionist, host of The Shift podcast, author and renegade for health.
Since completing 2 bachelor degrees in health science over 12 years ago, I’ve been helping peeps just like you to be their best through awesome health. I’ve spent most of this time one on one in clinical practice – in the trenches with my clients to navigate them through the minefield that is imperfect health.

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