Coffee filters are a convenient way to make a cup of coffee, but they can also have a negative impact on the environment. In addition to creating waste volume, many paper filters are bleached with chlorine or oxygen, both of which are chemical processes with waste products. Unbleached filters and reusable filters are both great alternatives that can help conserve water. Only a small amount of water is needed to produce each paper filter, but the water needed to rinse a reusable filter is not a major concern.
Espresso machines, French presses and AeroPresses all have reusable metal filters and make great coffee. Are coffee filters bad for the environment? The answer is yes and no. Sending them to landfill without considering the consequences can have a negative impact, but there are many easy solutions to mitigate that impact. Biodegradable coffee filters are considered good for the environment as they minimize contamination by plastic contaminants and become compost after a few months or years, depending on their composition.
Used paper coffee filters are generally not accepted as part of regular recycling programs due to the presence of coffee oils trapped in the paper. Keurig coffee machines are one of the most popular in the US, but if you use single-use coffee filters you are contributing to America's huge waste problem. When you use a coffee filter and throw it in the trash, it is likely that this garbage will end up in a landfill. This is a big problem for the environment and it is our responsibility to be more sustainable and understand how our actions impact the world around us.
Coffee grounds are an organic substance, so there is no reason why they should be a problem when composting them as long as proper recycling guidelines are followed and you don't bag too many at once (you may have to use two bags). Stainless steel, fabric, plastic - it all depends on how you make your coffee and what you want to get out of the filter. If you are responsible, thoughtful and creative when discarding or reusing paper filters, they can be a practical and environmentally friendly option. Coffee filters usually take about a month to break down in the environment - much faster than other types of plastics - so composting is a great option if you want to use your convenient and easy-to-clean paper filters. If you have access to a community garden or know neighbors who are avid gardeners, you can ask them if they would like to have their used coffee filters (and even coffee grounds) for their containers.
Using the coffee maker at home can save you time on the way to work and save the world from disposable cups, but it's important to think about how environmentally friendly your morning ritual really is. Although it's quite popular for blogs and other websites to say they add ground coffee to the earth, there isn't much evidence to suggest it helps.