One City Dares to Ban Coffee Pods

The coffee pod design isn't sustainable, so the German city of Hamburg has placed a ban on government-run buildings from using “Kaffeekapselmaschine,” or coffee capsule machines.

Keurig has changed the way people drink coffee. It has transitioned a $20 billion industry from brewing an entire pot to a convenient, single-serve pod system. One out of every three American homes has a Keurig. However, its popularity has caused a mass of waste to accumulate, as the pods themselves are not recyclable or biodegradable.

The wasteful design of these coffee pods has caused the German city of Hamburg to ban the use of Kaffeekapselmaschine,” or coffee capsule machines, from its state-run offices.

"These portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminum," Jan Dube from the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy told the BBC. "The capsules can't be recycled easily because they are often made of a mixture of plastic and aluminum. It’s six grams of coffee in three grams of packaging. We in Hamburg thought that these shouldn’t be bought with taxpayers' money."

The move is part of a larger city plan to make Hamburg more sustainable. The decision also shows the government's commitment to greener living. Not many people would sacrifice their daily cup of coffee for the greater good.

It's a “vote with your dollar” approach that may help the pod problem get traction at a local level. The path to change begins when someone decides to take action.

"With a purchasing power of several hundred millions of euros per annum, the city can help ensure that environmentally harmful products are purchased less frequently," Jens Kerstan, Hamburg's senator for the environment, said.

The decree makes Hamburg the first city in the world to ban coffee pods from state-run buildings.

Coffee capsules are mostly made from plastic no. 7, which contains a mixture only a few recycling facilities in Canada are able to process, or plastic no. 5, which requires consumers to mail-in their pods. 

Keurig has said it's working toward releasing a 100 percent recyclable K-Cup by 2020.

"To achieve our goal we are working on the design of the pods as with recycling and plastics industry experts," a spokesperson from Keurig told BigThink in an email. 

Still, that's four more years of waste and a mail-in recycling program isn't optimal, and consumers need something easier and more direct than a mail-in recycling program.


Photo Credit: Sergi Alexander/Getty Images

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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