Food In Canada


Single-serve coffee might be better for the environment: study

A new study from PAC, Packaging Consortium and Quantis Canada looked at the environmental impacts of single-serve versus bulk coffee brewing and the results may surprise you

Toronto – New research on the environmental impacts of coffee packaging yielded some surprising results.

According to PAC, Packaging Consortium, single-serve coffee may be a better choice for the world’s environment CoffeePouringFreeDigital266x400than traditional brewed coffee for most coffee drinkers.

PAC, Packaging Consortium’s study – Life Cycle Assessment of coffee consumption: comparison of single-serve coffee and bulk coffee brewing – looked at all steps in the coffee life cycle from farm to processors to consumer to waste disposal.

Quantis Canada, experts in sustainability and life cycle assessment, conducted the research.

Coffee impact

The firm looked at the full range of environmental impacts of growing coffee, transporting it, processing it and its use and disposal by consumers.

That also included looking at the impacts on ecosystems, climate change and water.

The research found wasted coffee and electricity consumption during brewing and heating are the key parameters in the comparison between single serve coffee and brewed bulk coffee, rather than the packaging.

The study identified three key benefits of single-serve coffee over traditional brewing of bulk coffee:

• Single-serve coffee uses an exact serving of fresh coffee in a controlled process – leading to minimal coffee wastage.

• Drip brewed coffee making is consumer controlled – consumers are more likely to prepare more brewed coffee than they need with the leftover coffee going down the kitchen sink.

• Bulk brewing systems typically use a hot plate to keep the coffee warm and can use more energy than single-serve systems.

Single-serve packaging and its environmental impacts have become a significant concern, says James D. Downham, PAC CEO. “So we wanted to support a transparent, credible study that would assess the big picture environmentally,” he says, “including the impacts on the staggering global issues of food loss and waste.”

“Every time someone empties a coffee pot down the drain, the water, energy and resources used from the farm all the way to that home are going down the drain too.”

The work by Quantis Canada’s experts was reviewed by external experts. The study is ISO-compliant and was done on behalf of PAC, Packaging Consortium and PAC Food Waste, which promotes ways to reduce food waste.

Life cycle analysis is an internationally recognized approach that evaluates the relative potential environmental and human health impacts of products and services throughout their life cycle, beginning with raw material extraction and including all aspects of transportation, production, use and end-of-life treatment.

To read a summary or the full report, click here.

Image of coffee mug and pouring coffee courtesy of digitalart at
Image of the coffee collage courtesy of zirconicusso at


Deanna Rosolen

Deanna Rosolen

Managing Editor, Food in Canada
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