Bridgehead's compostable coffee pods can't go in green bin

A local coffee chain will start selling its new compostable coffee pods on Friday, but its customers won't be allowed to dispose of them in their green bins.

Orgaworld open to trial at Ottawa facility

Tracey Clark, the CEO of Ottawa's Bridgehead coffee chain, is fighting to get the city to accept its new compostable coffee pods accepted in the the green bin program. (Susan Burgess)

A local coffee chain will start selling its new compostable coffee pods on Friday, but its customers won't be allowed to dispose of them in their green bins.

CEO Tracey Clark calls Bridgehead's pods "a great made-in-Ontario story," with biodegradable parts developed in the province. They're 95-per-cent coffee in a casing that consists of a paper top, a ring made of degradable bioresin and paper mesh to contain the coffee grounds.

Customers use the pods in coffee machines that dispense single servings. Most coffee pods contain plastic, and in Ottawa they are not recycled.

"The reality is we do have a landfill issue for these pods," Clark said. 

She approached city staff two months ago to discuss adding the pods to the list of items accepted in residential green bins, she said.

The city told her it couldn't accept them in residential green bins because they looked like they contained plastic, which is not permitted under the city's contract with the Orgaworld composting facility, Clark said.

Bridgehead's new coffee pods are compostable and degrade within 30 days, according to Clark. (Susan Burgess)

Could cause confusion

City staff also told her permitting the pods could confuse the public, who might come to believe other types of coffee pods also belong in the green bin.

The city clarified its stance in an email to CBC, which it attributes to Marilyn Journeaux, the city's director of solid waste services.

"The City of Ottawa's long-term waste strategy prioritizes organics recycling. Our Green Bin program therefore does not accept plastics, including compostable and biodegradable plastics," said the email.

"This policy, which ensures the integrity of our organics waste stream, is not specific to Bridgehead coffee pods. It applies to everyone."

Orgaworld open to trial

This week, Clark reached out to Orgaworld in a last-ditch effort to resolve the matter. 

And while the city has thrown up roadblocks, Orgaworld Canada's general manager told CBC Thursday the company's contract is not a barrier to the compostable pods.

"If Bridgehead is looking to be green, and it's developed a compostable product, what we'd like to do is be able to do some trials at our facility to make sure there's no issues with that," said Michael Leopold.

Orgaworld is already working on a trial with the City of Toronto, he said, which approached the company about taking such pods at the plant in London, Ont., where the city sends its other organic waste.

Orgaworld Canada processes residential organic waste for the City of Ottawa.

Trial to start after October

Leopold also spoke personally with Clark on Thursday and called the discussion "very positive," adding that Orgaworld and Bridgehead would proceed with a trial sometime after a meeting in early October. 

Clark called it "great news."

"I think it'll be great news for the City of Ottawa as well, that they might not have to fear opening up the contract or litigation with Orgaworld, that Orgaworld would take the position to look at this," Clark said.

The city should "do the right thing," Clark said. She'd also like to see Bridgehead's biodegradable cups for cold beverages considered for the green bin program.​

City staff declined to respond to questions about whether the city would add compostable coffee pods to the green bin stream if the Orgaworld trial is successful.

Local municipalities are wary of allowing compostable coffee pods in green bins, lest confused consumers began putting plastic ones like these in the compost. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)