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McDonald’s launches compostable coffee pods

Fast food giant partners with Kraft Heinz Canada on the Keurig-compatible pods

McDonald’s coffee fans feeling guilty about dumping their plastic single serve Keurig-compatible pods into the garbage now have a more environmentally-friendly option.

Working with Kraft Heinz Canada, McDonald’s single serve coffee pods are now compostable. The pods use the PurPod100 technology developed by Toronto-based Club Coffee. The PurPod -- made from plant-based materials, coffee bean skin and other compostable materials rather than plastic -- was certified as fully compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute in late 2015.

While the new pods are “100% compostable,” not all municipalities accept the pods into their organic waste programs. The city of Toronto does not accept the compostable pods, though city staff has been studying the issue and is scheduled to report on it to council in September.

Coffee pods have enjoyed explosive growth in North America over the last decade. Euromonitor estimates 15% of the coffee that Canadians drank at home in 2016 was brewed from a pod, and North American sales reached US $5.7 billion last year.

But, consumers have increasingly expressed concerns over plastic pods pouring into landfills. In early 2015, the anxiety was brought to life in a video “Kill the K-Cup” that went viral and a few months later, The Atlantic ran a story about the problem in which K-Cup inventor John Sylvan admitted: “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”

In response, coffee makers have been working on solutions for a few years now. Loblaw began selling President’s Choice compostable pods using Club Coffee’s innovative technology late last year. Mother Parker Coffee (which makes brands like Marley, Brown Gold and Martins) introduced a recyclable option in 2014—rather than composting the pod, consumers separate the pod components with the cup made from a plastic that could go into most recycling bins. In late 2015, Tim Horton’s introduced a similar separate-and-recycle option in British Columbia.

The McCafé pods are on shelves nationally, available in 12- and 30-count packs (approx. $9.99 and $19.99) and will be promoted through an advertising campaign starting soon including a stop motion animation TV spot that presents the pods amongst vegetables and other compostable produce.

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