Ad Watchdog: These ‘100% Compostable’ Coffee Pods Don’t Go In Your Backyard Compost Pile

When you see the word “compostable” on a product label, do you imagine tossing it in your backyard compost pile and calling it a day? It was easy to read the packaging for Kauai coffee pods meant for use in Keurig single-serving brewers that way, but they could only be composted in a few industrial facilities. Now an ad watchdog has recommended that the company make this distinction clearer to customers.

Mesh pods are fairly common in third-party products for Keurig’s single-serving coffee brewers, though Keurig itself doesn’t use them due to concerns over freshness, instead transitioning its pods to commonly recyclable types of plastic.

The difference is an important one, since industrial composting facilities aren’t available in all markets. The pods use a halo of eco-friendliness to sell themselves, but realistically, most of them will end up in landfills.

Yet the National Ad Division, a self-regulation body for advertisers that evaluated these claims, noted language promoting the cups that said the opposite.

“Now you can enjoy the great taste and convenience of single-serve coffee without worrying about the environmental impact,” some previous ad copy for the products read. “Our certified 100% compostable pod is compatible with all K-cup brewers and is designed to go back to the land – not the landfill.”

In its decision, the NAD notes that the print clarifying the claim that the pods are 100% compostable is teeny-tiny, and most consumers probably won’t understand that “in industrial facilities” means that they need to go to some effort to compost the pods, since the correct kind of composting facility isn’t available in all areas.

“The phrase ‘compostable in industrial facilities’ does not modify the main claim, nor is it sufficiently clear and conspicuous such that consumers will notice, read and understand it,” the group’s decision notes.

The company agreed to the NAD’s recommendations, and you can see clarifications on its website for direct pod orders already.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.