The Recyclable K-Cup Isn't As Great As Keurig Wants Us To Think

Photo: Daniel Acker/Getty Images.
After years of protest, Keurig has finally come up with a solution to the problem of its wasteful K-Cups. The company has invented a new version of its single-serve coffee pods, now made of completely recyclable polypropylene, according to the New York Times. But this solution is a little less than perfect.

The new cups, made out of the same material as water bottles, will be sold later this year and will make up half the number of K-Cups in the market by 2018, the company said. There are still some problems with this plan, the Times' David Gelles pointed out. First, in order to be recycled, the cups still need to be opened, which gets messy. Second, "The production of each one of these coffee pods requires energy, materials, chemicals, water, [and] transportation," Darby Hoover from the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Times. All that doesn't just go away because this new K-Cup is recyclable.

A better solution is to use one of Keurig's reusable My K-Cups, but that kind of defeats the purpose of using one of these machines in the first place and it's not really a convenient idea for those who use K-Cups in the office.

Environmentalists have complained about the impact of K-Cups since their invention, because they were originally designed using the same disposable cups fast-food restaurants use for salad dressing. Because that plastic could not be recycled, users of the wildly popular machines had discarded enough K-Cups to circle the world 10.5 times by the time KilltheKCup.org created its popular "Attack of the K-Cup" video last year. When it was acquired by Green Mountain Coffee in 2006, the company began trying to make the cups recyclable. It's taken 10 years to come up with this version.

"When you look at the trends toward single-serve generally, you can either villainize it, or you can fix it," Keurig's Chief Sustainability Officer Monique Oxender told the Times. "We're trying to fix it."

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