Sixty-eight percent of coffee drinkers in the U.S. use some kind of addition, either a creamer or a sweetener, or both. And if that addition is coming in the form of a single-serve plastic container, it's likely ending up in a landfill.
These pods—you’ve seen them at hotels, airplanes, restaurants, conventions—are convenient in that they are often shelf-stable, and can be used in small doses. This is not inherently bad; the idea of using a tiny container of creamer so as to avoid opening and possibly eventually throwing out a quart of milk is sound.
But they’re also not usually recyclable, and are thus disastrous for the environment; billions are used annually, then thrown into the garbage. In the past few years, several enterprising researchers and marketers have been attempting to solve that problem with something fun: dissolvable milk pods.
Martha Wellner, a PhD student at Martin Luther University in Germany, has come up with what might be the most fully-realized solution we’ve seen. (Previous similar solutions have been more concepts than products.) Essentially, Wellner’s product is a single serving of milk, encapsulated in a sugar crust. That sugar crust can vary—sucrose makes it very sweet, erythritol slightly less so—but either way it’s designed to be a single-piece solution to drop into a cup of black coffee. The coffee dissolves the sugar, releasing both the sugar and the milk within into the cup.
Currently there’s no solution if you like your coffee with milk but without sugar, though the team says they’re working on that. In any case, they say the pods will keep at room temperature for up to three weeks—all without plastic.
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