Landfills and the K-cup, A Disaster in the Making

Keurig K-cup, Coffee, Recycle, Biodegradable, So let’s see if I got this right. In the far distant past if one wanted to have a fresh brewed cup of coffee he would go to the pantry, pull out a bag of ground coffee and measure out the correct amount of grounds for the number of cups he wants.

Put a filter into the basket and into that pours his grounds. Then measures and pours the correct amount of water into his coffee maker and turns it on. 10 min later he gets his coffee.

Now all of this takes maybe 5 minutes, 10 if you’re slow like me. While the coffee is brewing you do other things to get ready for work or whatever it is you do in the morning.

I don’t see this as a huge hassle and besides that wonderful coffee smell is half the experience. Well it seems a guy by the name of John Sylvan who invented the K-cup back in 1992 thought this routine was just too tedious. His goal was to create “a better, more customizable and liberating caffeine experience than the tepid office percolator”. I still don’t understand what that means but that was his reason for inventing the K-cup. Like the old saying goes, seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fast forward to 2016 and we find ourselves under a virtual mountain of these damn cups. Come to find out there not even biodegradable, now that’s just plain irresponsible in this day and age, even back in 2006 when these things really took off it was extremely short sighted on the part of the manufacture.

“But their popularity has created an even bigger problem: a mountain of used, non-recyclable plastic cups ending up in landfills. According to Halifax, Nova Scotia-based filmmaker Mike Hachey, who has made K-Cups the target of his crusade, there could be as many as 60 billion of them in landfills. Hachey started a website Kill the K Cup to track the activities of Keurig Green Mountain and, to raise awareness, he’s made an over-the-top horror video in which a monster made of K-Cups attacks helpless young urbanites. “Kill the K-Cup before it kills our planet,” the film proclaims.”  –, “Kill the K-cup Before It Kills Our Planet”

Now here’s the dig, other companies do make biodegradable compostable pods, but the Keurig 2.0 has a digital rights management system that rejects pods made by rival companies.

This sounds eerily like the aftermarket ink and toner industry which I’m a part of. They installed a similar system in their printers that can detect if the cartridge is a aftermarket thus rendering it unusable. This takes away a choice that the consumer has a right to, mainly once they buy a piece of equipment they should have the right to use any aftermarket product they want.

But that story is for another article. The point is the Keurig K-cup is currently only about 5 percent recyclable; the rest is made from No. 7 plastic which can’t be recycled. As of 2013 it was reported that Keurig Green Mountain Coffee produced enough coffee pods to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. Keurig did say they are working on the problem and are committed to fixing it by 2020 which as of 2015 gives them time to produce enough cups to circle the Earth 52 more times. Does it really take that much time to solve this man made disaster?

I just can’t for the life me understand how a business in good conscience can willing produce a product that can’t be recycled, and then admits there is a problem but it will take them at least 5 years to fix it. Looks to me like profit trumps common sense again. I must admit though in their defense at the time of this writhing they are really trying to solve this problem. If you visit their web site  it states that they are now using a plastic called #5 Polypropylene plastic which is much more recyclable than the old material they were using.

The best solution at this point is to ensure what you are buying is made from the new #5 Polypropylene material, if its not don’t buy it. This will send a message to Keurig that the consumer insist on bio gradable products. Make sure that your community’s waste recycling center can process this type of plastic.  If after looking into this new material you are still not comfortable with using these K-cups how about just going back to making coffee using a good old drip coffee maker!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you own a Keurig machine? Did you know the problem these cups are causing to our already strained eco –system? Would you stop using this machine as a sign of protest until Keurig came out with a bio-degradable version?

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