Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Coffee Pods: Are They Recyclable?

Don't feel like reading? Watch this special edition of CBC Marketplace. The segment starts at 3:57.

The short answer: Coffee pods are not recyclable in Edmonton. They are too small to sort in the Materials Recovery Facility and also contain many different materials all stuck together. So they belong in the garbage.

The long answer: Some people really want them to be recyclable so they take them all apart at home so let's break it down piece by piece.

Coffee grounds - compostable!

  • Compost at home, or if you put in your household garbage - in Edmonton - it will be sorted out and composted.

Composting Facility at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC)

Paper filter - compostable

  • Compost at home, or put it in your household garbage and - in Edmonton - it will be sorted out and composted.
  • If you put it in your Blue Bag then it will go to the Materials Recovery Facility for sorting: Paper needs to be bigger than your palm to be sorted at the recycling sorting facility. If it's smaller than your palm, it will likely reach the end of the sorting line as "residuals" or "leftovers" which are landfilled. It may also cause some problems at the plant because small pieces of paper can jam up the machines.

Small (no number) plastic containers - garbage

  • If you put them in your Blue Bag, then it will go to the Materials Recovery Facility for sorting. The machines there aren't capable of sorting items that are this small, and the workers on the line are focusing on other items (e.g. pulling plastic bags off the line for recycling).
Materials Recovery Facility at the EWMC

Better ways to deal with them

Unless you find a creative way to reuse these coffee pods, they will end up in the landfill... right now. Edmonton has decided to deal with plastic like this with the Waste-to-Biofuels Project. When the Waste-to-Biofuels Facility is up and running in 2015, the chemicals in these plastics will be recovered into methanol and ethanol.

Our office also has a coffee machine that has small disposable items with each cup. In order to reduce waste, a few of us around the office just bought a coffee press instead. We still get to enjoy a delicious brew without the waste!

Learn more
Find information on composting at home, the EWMC, recycling, Waste-to-Biofules and much more at
If you have a suggestion for a questionable item please let us know at!


  1. You've just reinforced my pet peeve!

  2. As you expressed in your siimple suggestion #155!

    1. I'm very happy to hear that you and your office mates have found yourselves a bodum!

  3. I would venture to say that just about anything, including coffee pods are recyclable in this day n age!