Single serve coffee may be a better choice for the world’s environment than traditional brewed coffee for most coffee drinkers. That’s the surprising finding of new research on the full environmental impacts of coffee throughout all steps of its life cycle from farm to processor to consumer to waste disposal.
“Life Cycle Assessment of coffee consumption: comparison of single-serve coffee and bulk coffee brewing” was released today by PAC, Packaging Consortium.
This life cycle analysis (LCA) was researched by Quantis Canada1, a recognized global leader on LCA. It examines the full range of environmental impacts of growing coffee, transporting it, processing it and its use and disposal by consumers – including on ecosystems, climate change and water.
The research found wasted coffee and electricity consumption during brewing and heating are the key parameters in the comparison between single serve coffee and brewed bulk coffee, rather than packaging. It identifies three key benefits of single serve coffee over traditional brewing of bulk coffee.
- Single serve coffee uses an exact serving of fresh coffee in a controlled process – leading to minimal coffee wastage.
- Drip brewed coffee making is consumer controlled – consumers are more likely to prepare more brewed coffee than they need with the leftover coffee going down the kitchen sink.
- Bulk brewing systems typically use a hot plate to keep the coffee warm and can use more energy than single serve systems.
James D Downham, PAC CEO, said, “We understand that people are concerned about the environmental impacts of single serve packaging. So, we wanted to support a transparent, credible study that would assess the big picture environmentally, including the impacts on the staggering global issues of food loss and waste because every time someone empties a coffee pot down the drain, the water, energy and resources used from the farm all the way to that home are going down the drain too.”
The work by Quantis Canada experts was reviewed by external experts. The study is ISO-compliant and was done on behalf of PAC, Packaging Consortium and PAC Food Waste which promotes ways to reduce food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resources Institute, 33% of all food produced worldwide is wasted. The study reflects the PAC commitment to address food waste issues.
Edouard Clément of Groupe AGÉCO noted, “We wanted to provide a practical, comprehensive overview of the two product systems. As such, the LCA considered all identifiable upstream inputs covering five life cycle stages from coffee supply to materials and production, distribution, usage and end-of-life.”
Alan Blake, PAC NEXT Executive Director stated, “We realize that packaging waste is an on-going challenge, which is why Club Coffee and Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee cooperated with us to make this research a reality. Mother Parkers has launched its recyclable RealCup™ capsule and Club Coffee is launching what is expected to be a 100% compostable coffee pod.”
PAC, Packaging Consortium is a not-for-profit corporation, founded in 1950. PAC is North American-centric with global access. PAC advocates for all materials and for package neutrality through inclusive, transparent and collaborative processes. The 2,200 PAC members come from all sectors of the packaging value chain. From PAC NEXT, the vision of A World without Packaging Waste, to PAC Food Waste, PAC members share a commitment to sustainability.
Life cycle analysis is an internationally recognized approach that evaluates the relative potential environmental and human health impacts of products and services throughout their life cycle, beginning with raw material extraction and including all aspects of transportation, production, use, and end-of-life treatment.
The Executive Summary of the Life Cycle Analysis is here.
The full Life Cycle Analysis report is online here.
The Critical Review Panel approval
letter is here.
1. The report was carried out by Quantis Canada, the Canadian branch of Quantis, which was acquired in March 2015 by Groupe AGÉCO