Kauai’s ‘100% Compostable’ Coffee Pods

May 24th, 2017

A screenshot taken from Kauai’s website May 23, 2017.

Kauai Coffee claims its “100% compostable” coffee pods take the guilt out of single serve.

“Now you can enjoy the great taste and convenience of single-serve coffee without worrying about the environmental impact,” the Hawaiian roaster says on its website. “Our certified 100% compostable pod is compatible with all K-Cup brewers and is designed to go back to the land — not the landfill.”

But there’s a catch, or as NAD recently put it, a “significant limitation” to Kauai’s compostable coffee pods that is not clearly disclosed to consumers. The caveat? The capsules have only been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), an environmental advocacy group, to decompose at “industrial facilities” and not in the compost pile in your backyard.

Following a review of one of the company’s print ads and its website, NAD said:

…this significant limitation appears in a barely legible font on the photo of the Kauai Coffee box, and in a similarly tiny font within the BPI certification seal itself… (Squint for yourself here.)

Commercial composting facilities are few and far between. According to an interactive map on CoffeeComposting.com, which is where Kauai directs visitors to its website to find locations, a total of 11 states don’t have a single facility that’ll decompose the coffee pods. This includes Hawaii, the state in which Kauai says it has planted more than 4 million coffee trees across more than 3,000 acres. Kauai admits that these industrial facilities “do not exist in many communities” but again the disclaimer is buried in the fine print of the BPI certification seal.

NAD, acknowledging “the limited availability of industrial composting programs,” recommended that Kauai prominently disclose this reality — and that the coffee pods are not certified for backyard composting — in ads that tout the “100% compostable” claim. Kauai said it would comply with the recommendations.

Find more of our coverage on environmentally friendly marketing claims here.

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The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.

Sometimes termed “mouse print” or, more benignly, “disclosure language”, and presented in miniscule font. It is there to take back every enticing offer made in the ad.

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