Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Is coffee killing the planet?
In 2014, 9 billion k-cups were sold: enough to wrap around the Earth 12 times!
"It's like a cigarette for coffee: a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance" ~John Sylvan, Inventor of Keurig
So, here is the real question...
Are K-cup recyclable???
Alexia....Whatever do you mean by "kind of"???
Well, when the k-cups were first invented they were not recyclable in any way.
By 2016, they were considered "recyclable", but only if the consumer was willing to separate the pod into its plastic, paper, and metal components. Ain't nobody got time for that!
After a Youtube video, called Kill the K-cups, came out in 2014 the awareness of their environmental impact was well noted.
#killthekcup popularized after the release of this video as a petition for Keurig to improve their product.
Sylvan said that he intended for Keurigs to be solely used in offices, and "feels bad sometimes that he ever did it"... Since then the company has been working hard to improve their sustainability.
They pledged for all pods to be 100% recyclable in Canada by 2018 and in the U.S. by 2020.
Why so long? The plastic the pods are made of is a specialized combination of 4 different plastics that need to be able to withstand immense heat and pressure during the brewing process. Changing the product while keeping the durability will take some time.
When I do my research for these posts, I always find great and thorough information on all the negative impacts of the topic, but I don't find much on what there is to do about it.
I was overjoyed to see how much the Keurig company is working on change and actually making a difference! From individual visits with several recycling companies to learning how the pods flow through the machinery, to experimenting with different types of plastic, to reaching out all the way to the cultivation and processing of the coffee they are making sure not just the plastic but also the water usage, transport, and more is sustainable!
At the bottom of this post I will attach links to the Sustainability pages on their actual websites if you'd like more information!
They made that pledge and they followed through! In 2018, K-cups were 100% recyclable in Canada!
Here is a video of how they made it happen!
I am confident that the company will succeed in making the K-cups 100% recyclable in the U.S by 2020. :)
What is the actual amount of waste Keurig pods create?
The weight in metric tons of one years worth of disposed K-cups is less than 1% of total waste.
But, does that mean that we shouldn't care? 1% is still an incredible amount, and adds up quickly.
Benefits of K-cups: They save water!
When people brew an entire pot of coffee, usually about 15% of the pot goes to waste. That already is wasted water.
Coffee is a very water-intensive crop, so if coffee is wasted and you go back to the cultivation phase the water that went into growing the coffee was wasted too. We usually don't notice the problem of wasting water or that we even are wasting water in the United States because we are lucky enough to have constant access to clean water unlike other countries.
It is important to keep in mind how much we use and how much we throw away. With single use servings of coffee we are unlikely to brew more than we will actually use.
What can we do about it???
Here is a list of off-brand recyclable and/or compostable coffee pods that will work in your Keurig machine. There are several companies trying to keep the brilliant idea of single use coffee but in a sustainable manner.