The Big Problem with Aluminium Coffee Capsules

The Big Problem with Aluminium Coffee Capsules

July 19, 2018

Even when you recycle, aluminium coffee capsules are a massive source of waste and pollution.

There's good news and bad news when it comes to aluminium. Unfortunately, it's mostly bad news. The good news is that, when recycled, aluminium production only requires a small fraction of the energy required.

There are two main reasons why. Firstly, coffee capsules are rarely recycled. Even when made convenient, it's not exactly an easy process. Things seem great when you just have to throw the used ones in a bag and they get picked up and you never have to worry about it after that. But that's where the fun ends and the science begins...

Secondly, aluminium production uses up a lot of energy and natural resources. For those interested in the science behind it, aluminium begins life as aluminium oxide (in a mix of a number of other compounds known as Bauxite) when it is first mined from the ground. To separate the pure aluminium, you need to heat it to 2000°C before metal is made. This is because the strength of the chemical bond between aluminium and oxygen is significantly stronger than the same bond between oxygen and other metals.

At that temperature, a lot of aluminium carbide and vapour are also made. By-products from the aluminium production process can be extremely damaging to health, especially in children.

Some more modern processes (such as the Hall-Heroult process) can use half that temperature, but still typically lose around 50% of the energy used as low grade heat. This is due in part to the fact that the compounds required to dissolve the oxide are so corrosive that there no practical way to keep the heat in. There are also great challenges in the technology used in the Hall-Heroult process that result in large energy losses.

Yet another issue comes up when you consider the fact that coffee capsules are not made of just aluminium. They're made with a mix of materials, including the paint used and a thin plastic lining inside the capsule. This means that more chemicals and more energy need to be used to separate the materials before they can be recycled, leading to more waste and more pollution.

Moreover, the fact that the capsules are contaminated with organic waste once they've been used means that there are almost no municipal recycling facilities that can process them!

At Moving Beans, we cut these wasteful materials and processes out completely - there's no need for them any more. The use of gratuitous amounts of raw materials (the mining of which can cause lasting, sometimes irreversible damage to the environment) and energy is no longer necessary to support our caffeine habits.

We use plant-derived materials and the freshest coffee in our products. Zero waste, nothing needs to be recycled, and no damaging side-effects from manufacturing!

And don't even get us started about how bad plastics are....



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