Emma: Hong Kong introduced the plastic bag charge quite a while ago and this has proved successful in cutting down the amount of plastic just thrown away without thought. For this, we should be proud of ourselves.
But when it comes to plastic waste, it seems like we take one step forward and two steps back. A new menace is creeping up on us, and no one is doing anything about it. You probably don't think this small, innocent-looking object l’ve got here is a threat to the environment. But it is. I’m talking about coffee pods. Don't they look cute! But don't be fooled. They are monsters. And their march forward must be stopped.
Coffee capsule machines are very popular. You know, those contraptions in which you put a small plastic and aluminium pod capped with foil that contains coffee. You fill the container with milk and or water, press a switch and hey presto! You get a delicious cup of coffee.
Over the past ten years, the sales of coffee capsule machines has grown and grown. No kitchen or office is complete without one, and they are even starting to appear in hotel rooms. When doing research for this debate, I read that one in eight cups of coffee sold in Germany, for example, comes from a coffee pod like this one.
I don't know the figures for Hong Kong, but I do know that these coffee machines are getting more and more popular. My sister tells me her boss has just bought one for the office and that many of her work colleagues are impressed with the coffee it makes and thinking about getting one for home.
According to analysts, worldwide sales of coffee pods were up by a third in 2015. Sales are expected to treble by 2020, at which point coffee capsule sales will have overtaken the sales of tea bags. Good news for coffee drinkers - so where’s the problem? Just think about it for a moment, and my concerns on this issue will become obvious.
Single-use coffee capsules cannot be recycled easily because they are made of a mixture of plastic and aluminium. They are not like teabags that are usually made from a biodegradable material. The coffee pod, with its leftover coffee grounds in the bottom, usually ends up in landfill. Each capsule is six grams of coffee in three grams of mixed packaging. If this is not massive waste, I don’t know what is.
Some manufacturers of coffee pods run a scheme where customers send back empty pods, but they won’t give figures for how many pods actually are returned. On interviewing ten people who have a coffee capsule machine, not one of them sent their empty pods back. Ten out of ten just threw them in the trash.
The German city of Hamburg has recently banned coffee capsule machines in their government offices. But the point about coffee pods isn't just about recycling - it’s about cutting down on the amount of packaging we need to throw away in the first place.
This cute little coffee container is an example of twenty-first century rubbish. We don't need it and it is damaging our planet. We should stop using it now. Please support me in my campaign to ditch the coffee pod!