Biodegradable Plastic

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.”  – EcoWatch.com, “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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Biodegradable Plastics, Really Biodegradable?

So what’s the real scoop on this fantastic new product called Biodegradable Plastics that the manufactures are talking about? Is it really biodegradable? Does it really break down into harmless particles? Is it really the answer to the huge global problem that plastics have become to our environment?

When I first heard about this I thought to myself, wow finally someone comes up with a plastic like material that will break down in the environment. What a wonderful idea. Not so fast. Just with a little digging I find out this stuff does not break down as advertised and in some cases is even worse than the original plastic.

Conventional plastic takes a long time to break down. The problem is it never really breaks down and just melts away into nothing. It actually just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces into what is called microplastics and ends up in every nook and cranny of our eco-system including us after we eat fish that have ingested it. 

A report released by the United Nations looked into these so-called biodegradable plastics and it ends up the reality does not match the hype. When you read the fine print you find out that these plastics require long-term exposure to high temperatures around 122F, like those found in large municipal composters to actually break down. Problem here is there seems to be only about 100 facilities nationwide that will accept these “biodegradable” plastics according to a report by Mother Earth News.

So manufactures are making a product that they claim is biodegradable that is not. The BS just never seems to end. Think about it, if most of our municipal waste treatment plants will not accept this material for composting what the hell is this stuff?

The bigger question becomes where will it end up if not at the recycling centers? They will either end up in landfills that do not have high temperatures of 122 degrees or higher or in our oceans. To add insult to injury once these plastics are in our oceans the water actually reduces UV and oxygen exposure so they degrade even slower than they would on land.

No matter what the label states these so called biodegradable plastics will be around us for a very long time.

When all is said and done these so called Biodegradable Plastics are actually less recyclable than regular plastics and they can contaminate the feed of recycling plants. According to Peter Kershaw, one of the authors of the UNEP study: “If you’re recycling plastics you don’t want to have anything to do with biodegradable plastics because if you mix biodegradable with standard plastics you can compromise the properties of the original plastic.”

It seems this is just another example of some industries “greenwashing” a product so it sells. Unless they can make a biodegradable plastic that actually degrades under regular conditions and fairly rapidly without causing problems in standard recycling plants I’m guessing this product is not the answer to our plastic problem. In my opinion they should just be taken off the market because they are creating a whole new set of problems.

Why would any industry go through the time and cost of creating a product that will only add to the problem of global waste at a time when we are trying to reduce harmful products from our environment? Of course the simple answer is to make money but at what expense to our habitat and living conditions. 

I’ts nice to make money but at what expense. In the end these plastics will affect everyone including the CEO’s of these company’s. That means their family members will be eating fish that ingested plastic and the beaches they go to will eventually have plastic trash on them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the time and energy in inventing a real biodegradable plastic? Who ever comes up with this will corner the market and make a gazillion dollars.

Could you be the one that comes up with that idea??