Coffee Pod Problems

A coffee cup and coffee pods
Photo by Brian Black via Flickr

Liz Waid and Adam Navis look at a fast, fresh way to make coffee. This method is very popular, but it may be creating too much waste.

Watch Video


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

It seems like a normal day at the office. But suddenly, the day turns frightening. People in the office hear shouting and crashes. They feel the ground shake. Then, a huge creature comes. It is taller than the office building. It is made of small, plastic containers. The creature comes with ships from outer space. The ships are shooting the plastic containers at the city. They are destroying it.

Voice 2  

This story is from a short internet film called “Kill the K-Cup.” The huge creature was made of K-Cups. K-Cups are small, plastic pod containers. They contain dry, fresh coffee. K-cups are just one kind of coffee pod. But there are many different kinds. People put coffee pods into a special machine. In less than one minute, the machine fills a cup with hot coffee. Coffee pods are fast and easy. More and more people are using them everywhere in the world. But many people believe that they harm the earth. Today’s Spotlight is on coffee pods.

Voice 1  

Coffee pods have become extremely popular around the world. For example, from 2009 to 2014, sales of coffee pod machines in Asia increased by 300 percent. In Singapore, sales increased by 600 percent!

Voice 2  

So why do people like coffee pods so much? One reason is that they are fast. But they are also fresh. Another popular kind of coffee is instant coffee. People mix it with hot water to make coffee quickly. But many people do not like the taste of instant coffee because they like fresh coffee better. Coffee pods make fresh cups of coffee almost as quickly as instant coffee.

Voice 1  

Coffee pods can also waste less coffee. When people make fresh coffee the usual way, they usually use a coffee pot. Coffee pots make a few cups of coffee at a time. Often people do not drink all of the coffee from the pot. They throw the extra coffee away. This wastes water. By using less coffee and less water, coffee pods can have a positive effect on the environment.

Voice 2  

But there is one major problem: the material waste. People use pods one single time. Then they throw them away. For example, the K-cup is one kind of coffee pod. In 2010, people bought three million K-Cups. In 2015, they bought nine billion. Many other companies also sell coffee pods. And their sales are also growing. Almost all of these coffee pods were thrown away.

Voice 1  

A used pod usually contains three different parts. First, there is the part the pod is made of. This is often made of complex plastic. Second, each pod usually has an aluminum top. Third, a used pod contains wet coffee remains. A person must take the time to separate the plastic, aluminum and coffee remains. Many people do not have the desire to do this. And even if a person does separate the parts, there are very few places that will recycle and process them.

Voice 2  

Many people are concerned by the waste that coffee pods create. The government of Hamburg, Germany made it illegal for government offices to spend money on coffee pods. Jan Dube is from the Hamburg Department of Environment and Energy. He said,

Voice 3  

“It is six grams of coffee that uses three grams of material. We in Hamburg thought these should not be bought with tax-payer money.”

Voice 1  

Remember the short film, “Kill the K-Cup”, from the beginning of this program? The “Kill the K-Cup” movement began in Canada with that internet film. The film quickly spread across social media and internet news sites. It seemed to make a real change. The year after the movement began, coffee pod sales decreased for the first time.

Voice 2  

Coffee pod makers are working to reduce waste. K-cups are the most popular kind of coffee pod in the United States. In 2016, the maker of K-Cup released pods that can be recycled. And they hope to have all their pods recyclable by 2020.

Voice 1  

Other coffee pod companies are also working to produce more earth-friendly coffee pods. Nespresso is the most popular kind of pod coffee in Europe and Asia. These pods are made from the metal aluminum. Nespresso has an international recycling program. They have recycling centers in 31 countries. But they cannot recycle all of the coffee pods they currently produce. Nespresso aims to be able to recycle all their pods by 2020.

Voice 2  

But some people are trying to find their own ways to reduce coffee pod waste. Tan Cheng Yen works for a railway building company in Malaysia. Her office bought a coffee pod machine. She tried to get people at her office to re-use the pods. But the second cup of coffee from the pod did not taste as good as the first. So they stopped re-using them. Tan Cheng told China Daily,

Voice 4  

“I can see there is a lot of waste. A lot of people would recycle if it could be easy.”

Voice 1  

If people really want to use coffee pod machines, they can also use re-usable pods. They can buy a pod to use again and again. People buy their own coffee and fill the pods. So far, re-useable pods are not nearly as popular as traditional pods.

Voice 2  

Coffee pods now seem to be a part of modern life. They are a fast way to get fresh coffee. There are many ways to make the pods more earth-friendly. But is that really the issue? Many people think it is more important to just make less waste. Doug Leblanc is a coffee shop owner. He is part of the “Kill the K-Cup” movement. He told the BBC,

Voice 5  

“In many ways we are making progress with the environment. But in some ways we are going back 20 or 30 years. Making coffee in plastic pods that go to waste? There are other ways to make coffee that are better and cause less damage to the environment.”

Voice 1  

What do you think about coffee pods? Do you use them? What do you think people or companies should do to reduce waste from coffee pods? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website or our Facebook page.

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Coffee Pod Problems’.

Voice 1  

You can also get our programs delivered directly to your Android or Apple device. Just download our free official Spotlight English app. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


If you drink coffee, do you use coffee pods? Why or why not? Do you recycle the pods? What do you think about coffee pods?


Avatar Spotlight
said on May 23, 2016

No, I use a french press for my morning cup of coffee.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 23, 2016

I,m drinking a coffee everydays.
I,m drinking a machine coffee sometimes in coffee shops but without the plastic or aluminum pods because it is not using here yet. Here still uses the normal glasses even with a machine coffee.
Generally, I like a machine coffee because it is more concentrating.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 23, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Monday 23, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Jen Hawkins, Adam Navis, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, I drink two cups of coffee every day. The first cup that I drink is in the morning during the breakfast and another one is after lunch. No, I do not use pods because I use normal glasses or cups to drink coffee. I think coffee pods a very practical way to drink coffee but they can bring coffee pod problems to the environment.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 23, 2016

At home I use an italian coffee maker… It is my favorite way for a good coffee
At work I use a classical coffee machine.

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 03, 2016

Nowadays, many people are using coffee pods for the purpose of making good, fresh coffee quickly, this way represents the specific comfort people require in their daily life. However, I really agree with Doug Leblanc’s opinion that there are other ways to make coffee. We firstly should think about protecting environment to limit and decrease the amount of waste at all events!
Thanks Spotlight for popular, interesting topic!

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 24, 2019

Human’s living affects the environment. Human’s living affects the ecosystem. We are concerned about pollution. We are concerned about climate change. We protect the environment. We protect the ecosystem. We protect life on the earth. We protect beautiful good life on the earth. Human’s living affects the environment. Human’s living affects the ecosystem. We live to be persons of freedom. We are free to choose beautiful good things.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 27, 2019

I know there are many people who use coffee pods, but I like my coffee made in tradicional way. A few years ago I knew a Italian coffee maker, made of aluminum that produces excellent coffee without delay, better than coffee brewer, traditional in Brazil.