Zero waste your coffee habit with reusable coffee pods

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The humble cup of coffee is a huge waste generating culprit. Single-use coffee cups are, of course, a huge issue (with one billion of them ending up in landfill every year in Australia) but so too are coffee pods used in capsule coffee machines.

While the former may be negated by purchasing a reusable coffee cup – and given the proliferation of boutique brands across the reusable coffee cup landscape there’s no excuse for continuing to use takeaway cups! – there are less choices available to those who prefer to make their own brew at home with a capsule machine.

Luckily, Kayla Mossuto is a caffeine-fiend on a mission to leave the world a better place via her Melbourne-based venture, Crema Joe.

Her socially minded small business (which she co-founder with husband Piers in 2014) specialises in helping consumers to reduce their coffee waste with reusable coffee pods.

It’s estimated that six million coffee pods are used across Australia every day, with the majority of them ending up in either landfill or our oceans. Thankfully, Kayla estimates that each year, Crema Joe manages to divert 11.5 million of those single-use coffee pods from landfill.

We spoke to the caffeinated entrepreneur about why this issue resonated with her so strongly, why biodegradable or compostable coffee capsules are not the answer to our coffee pod waste problem, and find out how she takes her own cup of coffee!

What inspired you to start your own business, Kayla?

My husband (who I co-founded the business with) and I were originally confronted with our own capsule machine waste.

We began to look into the potential impact of the coffee pods we were consuming. Where would they end up? And would they actually be recycled?

We were determined to find a guilt-free an alternative, and drive behavioural change. We quite simply married our passion for coffee with a cause we believe in, and built a successful and ethical business around it.

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In addition to this, aside from recognising that there was a lack of good sustainable alternatives for coffee pod machine owners, the second driver that led me to launch Crema Joe was not having enough time around my busy day job to spend with my bub.

I’ve since really developed a passion for supporting other working mums, so I feel blessed that I've also been able to implement a corporate culture I believe in, offering a supportive working environment for my own team of return-to-work mums.

Tell us about Crema Joe’s reusable coffee pods. How do they work?

Our capsules are refillable. Basically, the capsules are filled with coffee (your favourite blend from your local cafe or roaster), the coffee is then tamped, and a lid added on top before popping it in the machine to brew as normal.

Since we launched in 2014, we have expanded our range to include options to suit a wide range of tastes and lifestyles. Our capsule range is predominantly made from stainless steel, with varying lid options (including reusable silicone lids, reusable stainless steel lids, and some recyclable and compostable options).

After use, the coffee grounds are tapped out of the capsule (the majority of our customers compost their spent coffee) and the capsule is given a quick rinse and dry before it is ready for reuse. Brew-rinse-repeat!

Do the coffee pods work with most coffee machine models?

Our business model seeks to drive change with the end user to promote sustainable behaviour, so we're looking to cover as many machine capsule systems as possible.

We currently have eco-friendly coffee pods compatible with Nespresso®, Dolce Gusto® Aldi K-fee® & Caffitaly® machines, with plans to continue expanding the range of sustainable pod alternatives later this year.

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Why is it important to you to try and save single use coffee pods from ending up in landfill?

Since becoming a mother, I've felt extremely passionate about caring for our earth – it's crucial that we leave the world a better place for future generations.

It's now predicted that Aussies consume a whopping six million pods daily; these used capsules would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every week!

Educating consumers is so important. Unbeknownst to many, recycling single-use aluminium capsules (as with recycling any product) depletes natural resources and increase Co2 emissions. While some single-use pods technically are recyclable, the number of capsules that are actually recycled is uncertain. It takes up to 500 years for aluminium and plastic pods to break down when they end up in landfill.

On top of this, biodegradable or compostable capsules that look and feel like plastic generally require industrial composting facilities to breakdown.

Even coffee pods made entirely of plant-based bioplastics need industrially high temperatures, moisture levels and UV light to decompose within any reasonable time frame, potentially leaving behind micro-fragments and toxic residues.

Unfortunately, we currently lack the infrastructure on a wide scale to collect and compost these kinds of pods. Some councils provide industrial composting through their green waste collection, however they may prohibit products labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable”, so we'd certainly advise consumers to double check this.

It’s a case-by-case basis and consumers do need to research how to compost each brand to ensure those types of capsules are disposed of correctly.

In summary, the energy output of manufacturing is so great, that no single-use item can compare to a reusable product – even if it’s recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.

We're extremely proud to say our capsule users are saving an estimated 11.5 million pods from landfill annually.

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So how do you take your own coffee?

I'm a parent, so I drink my coffees filled to the brim! Coffee briefly stills that chaotic parent-entrepreneur combo! But much to everyone's surprise, I'm not super fussy.

I am, however a massive fan of an iced latte. It's simple, no fuss, low effort and quick to throw together. I brew it with my Moka Pot at home, add a dash of milk and finish with a couple of ice-blocks. I guess it's a little quirky to drink iced lattes throughout winter, however I'd never get around to drinking coffees whilst still hot anyway!

Do you reuse your coffee grounds (to make body scrub, for example). How do you discard them?

Our home coffee grounds head to our worm farm. Since we launched our refillable capsule subscription to tackle Corporate Social Responsibility, we've a much bigger quantity of grounds coming into the Crema Joe warehouse.

As it's important that our business is waste-conscious, we've had to find a good solution for responsibly disposing of these spent grounds. Luckily, we found someone on the ShareWaste app just around the corner from our HQ, which has been an ideal solution for the current quantities we are producing.

Thanks for your time, Kayla!