Why Choose Plastic Free Coffee Makers?
Fancy an oat milk latte with a splash of phthalates?
Probably not—and neither does the planet.
Plastic doesn’t really deserve an invitation to our coffee breaks—yet it’s been RSVPing.
Plastic coffee = toxic coffee
Many components in a coffee maker are often made with plastic.
This means that each cup likely exposes us to hormone disruptors like BPA and phthalates.
And the big problem here is that BPA is known to leach out 55 times faster in hot liquids than it does under normal conditions.
The plastic-hardening chemical has been linked to a range of health concerns, like heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, reproductive disorders, obesity, cancer, and impaired brain development.
And it’s worth it to mention that even some “BPA-free” claims should be met with skepticism, because it’s relatively easy to swap out BPA for its toxic chemical cousins, Bisphenol S and Bisphenol F (BPS and BPF).
The BPA alternatives are structurally similar. So, from a manufacturing standpoint, they make a worthy alternative.
Unfortunately, they’re hormonally active in similar ways, too.
When it comes to estrogenic, antiestrogenic, androgenic, and antiandrogenic hormonal activities, BPS and BPF have been found to be just as potent as BPA as endocrine disruptors.
Similarly, long-term exposure to phthalate plasticizers adversely influences not just the endocrine system, but also healthy functioning of multiple organs.
The water reservoir, basket, and pipes are often made with hard plastic or PVC, which may leach a variety of phthalates (DMB, DIBM, DEHP).
Phthalates are the world’s most commonly used plasticizers, after all.
Worse, phthalates are more likely than BPA to be leached out by the hot water in a coffee maker.
Chronic exposure to phthalates has been known to adversely impact the endocrine system and healthy organ functioning.
Long-term impacts may include impaired growth and development and compromised reproductive system functioning.
Not only are these plastic based toxins bad from a health perspective, but they can impart that gross plastic-y taste in coffee, too.
And then we’ve got to consider the impact on our planet.
Environmental impact of plastic coffee machines
BPA in the environment has been known to negatively impact ecosystem health.
Especially since we annually release more than a million pounds of it, in the US alone.
Like many other chemicals, major sinks for BPA include rivers and lakes. Which is why we have a better understanding of BPA impacts on aquatic vertebrates than land-based ones.
Studies have shown that BPA can lead to reproductive and developmental harm and diminished immune function in aquatic non-mammalian vertebrates.
Phthalates are close behind, as they’re produced in very high volumes and are a pervasive toxin in the environment.
They, too, can lead to reproductive toxicity in animals, just as they do in humans.
Not to mention the fact that these plastic-based components are almost always impossible to recycle, and will remain in landfills for hundreds or thousands of years after their last brew session.
Makes you think twice about having that second (or third) cup of coffee, doesn’t it?
How We Found The Best Plastic Free Coffee Machines
To use our favorite coffee analogy again, finding sustainable technology in the world of low impact coffee machines is like finding a green bean in a mountain of roasted beans.
While some companies are starting to avoid use of BPA and phthalates, many coffee makers still have a long way to go before they’re truly plastic free.
Still, it didn’t stop us from looking.
The best plastic free coffee makers are made with stainless steel, biodegradable wood, or glass.
Stainless steel is durable, easy to maintain, resistant to heat, and won’t impart colors or flavors.
Similarly, glass offers many of the same benefits—but we all know how easy it is to break!
Unfortunately, even with glass carafes in a drip coffee machine, the plastic lid and basket may present a risk of BPA/phthalate leaching—so look for those that are explicitly free of these toxins.
Or use filter baskets, interior plumbing components, carafes, and water reservoirs (read; anything that touches water or hot coffee) that are plastic free.
Because even if something is deemed BPA-free, it may contain a BPA alternative, like BPF and BPS.
These substitutes have also been known to be hormone disruptors.
Aluminum is another common plastic alternative, but it is a known neurotoxin.
Sourcing and supply chain:
Unfortunately, many of these brands are still leaving coffee grounds in our cups. Read: they’re not transparently filtering out some of the unethical aspects of many consumer good supply chains.
It would be great to know more about where and how materials are sourced, and how workers are supported.
Manual is the go-to here.
If you can make a cup of coffee or espresso without requiring energy, that’s adv(enti)ageous for our planet.
If energy is required, functions like double-walled insulation or clear-to-read cup measurements can help you minimize the amount of power that’s needed to heat up water and keep it warm.
Recyclability and repairability:
From an end-of-life perspective, small non plastic coffee machines with fewer components are better.
It’s far easier to recycle a stainless steel French press than a drip coffee machine made with glass, stainless steel, and a batch of other materials.
That morning cup tastes even better when a brand offers repair and replacement part options or lengthy warranties.
How To Dispose of Coffee Machines
When your trusty coffee machine can brew no more, you may be wondering how to dispose of electronics.
A still-working coffee maker can be donated and many thrift stores, like Goodwill, offer e-waste recycling services for those beyond their last batch.
In the US, Staples recycles coffee brewers (less than 40 lbs).
For UK coffeeholics, Ferrari Espresso recycles non-working coffee machinery and provides you with coffee beans for sending yours in.
After enjoying the final flat white produced by your coffee maker, Australian coffee connoisseurs may have luck by turning to this e-waste recycling service.
An Australian PlanetArk dropoff point may be locally available, too.
Your local government or council may also offer e-waste drops off or collection days.