Coffee Capsules--Sustainable?

One of the things I talked to Brandon about the other day was the issue of sustainability in the coffee industry. I don’t want to try to tackle the entire issue yet—it is a very complex issue and to discuss all of the challenges of making the industry economically, environmentally and socially sustainable would take an entire book—but I would like to start a discussion about a part of the industry that is growing very quickly: single-serve coffee and espresso capsules.

There was an article in the New York Times in early August that featured Green Mountain Coffee and its K-Cups, plastic and tinfoil cups that are designed to make one cup of coffee and then be thrown away. According to the article, Green Mountain will sell nearly three billion of these capsules next year and it expects to sell many more in the future. The single-serve coffee industry has been growing around 30 percent each year for the last decade and industry experts expect this to continue.

The growth of the industry (and its future potential) has caused some battles between firms, as companies try to stake out territory in the single-serve market. Nestlé, one of the pioneers in this technology, recently sued Sara Lee in an effort to protect its market dominance.

Since there is nothing to suggest that the market is going to slow down anytime soon, I want to ask you:

1) Do you ever use any of these single-serve type coffee makers (Nespresso, K-Cups, Illy espresso capsules, etc.) and if so, what kind?

2) How does the coffee compare to what you get at your favorite coffee shop? 

3) What do you think about the impact that the capsules (a majority of which are non-recyclable and non-compostable) have on the environment?

Just curious to know what you might be thinking. . .