How long does it take?
There are many factors that can influence the composting process (like temperature, the time of year, and the location of your bio-bin, just to name a few). In fact, there are so many factors that come into play it’s hard to tell exactly when your used capsules will be fully decomposed. What we can say is that after 12-weeks in an industrial composter, you could pass what’s left of the used capsule through a 2×2mm mesh – we’ve even got our fancy EN13432 certification standard to prove it!
Read about the EN13432 certification standard here.
What’s an industrial composter?
When you put one of our capsules in the organic waste bin it will whisked away for treatment in an industrial compost plant. Here, the conditions are absolutely perfect for the microorganisms to get to work (warm, moist, lots of oxygen), and after a 12-week cycle the microbes will digest the capsules fully.
Do you want to learn more about industrial composting? Watch this video
One week composting
Other methods of disposal
If you throw away your used Green Ring coffee capsule in the regular waste bin, then it will end up as either landfill, incinerated, or recycled. Take your pick, because all three routes will have less of a negative environmental impact than your standard coffee cap.
In landfill, petroleum-based plastic and aluminium are highly pollutant and can potentially leak nasty chemicals into the soil and water. PLA has a much lower negative impact in landfill, because it’s 100% plant-based. If it’s not landfill, it’s likely the PLA capsules will be incinerated in a large industrial furnace. Now, this isn’t all as bad as it sounds. The high energy content that is released from the PLA can be converted into heat and electricity. And unlike with aluminium and petroleum-based plastics, this can be done safely without the risk of releasing polluting dioxins into the air (a bit of a win-win).
However, if you want to see the PLA re-entering the cycle as quickly as possible, the conditions in landfill just aren’t going to cut it. The microbes that make this magic happen are notoriously fussy about where (and what) they’ll decompose. That’s why we see a much slower rate of decomposition in landfill, compared to under industrial composting conditions. Here the microbes are pampered beyond belief with all the warmth, oxygen and moistness they’ll could ever need. That’s why we recommend you throw you caps in the bio-bin.
Recycling the coffee capsules
PLA can actually be recycled back into lactic acid pellets and then reused to make new products. In order for a standard coffee capsule to be recycled the plastic capsule and the foil sachet need to be separated, otherwise the plastic and aluminium cannot be re-used. Instead new plastics must be produced, only to follow the same cradle-to-grave lifecycle.
An important rule to remember when recycling is that you should never mix your plastics. When you’re doing your recycling you should try and resist the urge to put our coffee capsules in with the standard (petroleum-based) plastics (like PET bottles or plastic bags). They have a different chemical structure. So when they are mixed it can reduce the quality of the recycling process, and can lead to plastics being discarded rather than recycled. At this moment in time, however, because there are so few plant-based plastics in circulation, they have no significant impact in the recycling system.