Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coffee Time: Keurig K-Cups Generate a Lot of Plastic Waste

By Candace Mitchell

Many coffee lovers may want to rethink the way in which they get their fix in the morning. With the heightened use of Keurig's in about one in every eight American households, over traditional coffee makers, the waste of K-Cups is becoming a growing concern.

In 2013, Keurig Green Mountain sold 8.3 million K-Cups, enough to circle the Earth 10.5 times. This number rose to 9.8 million in 2014, enough K-Cups to circle the Earth more than 12 times, according to an article in The Atlantic. K-Cups brought in a majority of Keurig Green Mountain’s $4.7 billion in revenue this past year.

The pods are made of No. 7 composite plastic, which is not recyclable in most areas, nor biodegradable, generating a ton of plastic waste.

Many have brought attention to this waste issue with the hashtag #KillTheKCup. Egg Studios, a video production company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia even released a 2.5 minute parody video, mocking K-Cups with a large creature made entirely of the pods.

According to Keurig Green Mountain, the company is aware of the issue and has been exploring recyclable alternative since they took over Keurig in 2006.

"We're not proud of where we are right now, and we're committed to fixing it,” Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer for Keurig Green Mountain, told NPR. 

Meanwhile, many other competing coffee pod makers do offer recyclable options, according to NPR. Nespresso is one of them; their pods are made of aluminum.

However, this switch is not as smooth for Keurig because a new K-Cup must be compatible with all of the existing coffee maker models that have already been sold. Keurig has also considered a switch to paper K-Cups, but the experiment was not successful.

"You have to have the right combination of cup, the filter and the top,” Oxender told NPR.

Keurig Green Mountain currently has set a deadline of 2020 for making all of its beverage pods recyclable, according to the company’s website.

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