Catalyst Centre News

U of G Helps Create First Compostable Coffee Pods

University of Guelph researchers have helped create the world’s first certified 100 per cent compostable single-serve pod for coffee, tea and other hot beverages.

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), the largest independent certification organization for compostable products in North America, has certified the new PurPod100,™ meaning it meets international standards for compostability.

The announcement was made today by the Toronto-based coffee roaster, Club Coffee, which created the pod with support from U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC).

Club Coffee is the first manufacturer to earn BPI certification for single-serve pods.

“This is a wonderful example of how research and innovation at the University of Guelph makes a difference around the world,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino.

“We encourage exploration, collaboration and sharing of new ideas to improve people’s lives. This successful partnership highlights how we use our discoveries to produce real solutions to real-life issues.”

A U of G team led by BDDC director Amar Mohanty developed a key – PurPod100™ component. The ring that holds the pod in place in a coffee brewer is made with coffee chaff, the skin of the coffee bean that comes off during the roasting process. The University filed a patent for the ring formula.

In its announcement, Club Coffee credits the innovative use of the coffee chaff for helping it earn BPI certification.

“It’s rewarding to work on a project with an opportunity to make such a positive and widespread impact on the environment,” said Mohanty, a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture and the School of Engineering and holder of the Premier’s Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation.

“This innovative coffee pod not only addresses issues of environmental sustainability but also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels,” Mohanty said.

Made from plant-based resins, the coffee chaff ring and the entire single-serve pod are designed to be fully compostable.

“External certification provides consumers with confidence and assurance that purchasing coffee in the PurPod100™ format is a solution to the mounting problem of single-serve waste and its impact on the environment,” said John Pigott, CEO, Club Coffee.

“It also offers tangible solutions for municipal governments dealing with the growing number of single-serve pods in their landfills.”

The amount of used single-serve pods sent to landfills last year could have circled the Earth 13 times.

Recycling isn’t a convenient solution because hot pods full of coffee grounds must be carefully separated and cleaned before collections. As well, biodegradation is too slow of a process, that can take centuries to break down the billions of pods in landfills.

The entire PurPod100™ is expected to be able to go directly from the brewer into a green compost bin, ultimately returning coffee nutrients to the soil instead of adding more waste to landfills.

Once on the market in the coming months, the compostable pods will be compatible with most Keurig brewing systems (including the Keurig 2.0).

Competitive Green Technologies based in Leamington, Ont.,made the resin for the pod’s ring. CEO Atul Bali said the collaboration among the suppliers, molder, customer and the BDDC was key to commercializing the product.

Manju Misra, a professor of School of Engineering and Department of Plant Agriculture and a BDDC researcher, added these industry ties “enabled the technology to go to market and be scalable.”

The BDDC, which opened in 2008, uses renewable agricultural products as alternatives to petroleum-based sources to make products from car parts to storage bins to eco-friendly packaging materials.

The centre is supported by the University’s partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and has received funding from Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, Canadian Foundation of Innovation, and private partners including BMO Financial Group.