Toronto, Canada—home of Drake and the Toronto Raptors (which are Drake's favorite basketball team) and OVO Sound (Drake's record label)—is having a problem with trash. There are too many single-serve coffee pods in Toronto's landfills according to city councillor Jaye Robinson. So Robinson has asked the city's waste management department to "study ways to reduce the number of single-serve coffee pods that end up in landfills," because this coffee waste is becoming a serious problem for the city's infrastructure as well as the environment. "These coffee pods are very popular because they’re convenient," Robinson told the Toronto Sun about the coffee waste woes currently running through the Six. "But they do have an environmental cost. The purpose of my motion is to assess that."
Robinson is far from the first person to bring up the environmental impact of single-serve coffee pods. There's been increasing evidence that plastic and metal coffee pods are a source of unnecessary waste in landfills around the world. That's because most of the time, these little cups are not recyclable. Even Canadians, who adhere to a generally robust recycling program, have struggled with recycling the pods, according to a 2015 article from The Atlantic, and these single-serve coffee pods are plaguing municipalities across the Great White North. The Edmonton Waste Management Center in Alberta, Canada, for example, told folks at Egg Studios in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that "coffee pods account for fully one percent of their waste."
In Toronto, the problem of single-serve coffee pods flooding landfills has been exacerbated in recent months because of the introduction of a "100% compostable" coffee pod that, it turns out, is not really fully compostable in the industrial trash system. Toronto's Club Coffee released a biodegradable single-serve coffee pod in September 2015 as a way to fight against the excess coffee waste. The pods are fully compostable and take 84 days to fully break down.
But according to Jim McKay, general manager of Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services, 84 days is too long for the city's industrial composting system to wait for these things to break down—so even these biodegradable pods are going straight to the landfill. "People are going to legitimately, and understandably, feel they are doing something good for the earth. They're going to buy these, and throw them into the green bin," McKay told CBC News. "But the truth is, they're not going to be composted, they're going to go directly into the landfill site." That means Torontonians who are tossing their biodegradable coffee pods into the municipal compost aren't doing as good a deed as they think, which is making the problem even worse.
It's not like Robinson is rallying against the whole coffee pod industry, though. She just wants to make sure that the 2.6 million citizens of Canada's biggest city understand the environmental impact of their coffee habits—and ensure that Toronto's waste management systems are equipped to deal with these realities to minimize that waste. “If it’s true that one in four households, approximately, are using single-serve coffee brewers and pods, it’s very disconcerting we don’t have a way to deal with that,” Robinson told the Toronto Sun. “We need to be more proactive and address what’s happening in the industry.”