Towards Greener Single Serve Coffee: Reusable K-cups and More

Towards Greener Single Serve Coffee: Reusable K-cups and More

One of the biggest issues with the Keurig and many other single serve coffee brewers is the disposal of used capsules. With the number of single serve coffee drinkers on the rise, the problem of the non-recyclable plastic coffee capsule has become an increasing concern for environmentally conscious coffee lovers.

While there have been some efforts to create recyclable and/or compostable K-cups and coffee capsules, most of them have been too complex and unwieldy to take hold in the real world. That is, most of them require users to carefully take the used K-cup apart in order to recycle all of the parts separately. When you consider that most people are using the Keurig and other single serve coffee makers for the convenience factor, it’s not surprising that so few people actually take advantage of the few coffee pod recycling programs that exist.

Towards Greener Single Serve Coffee

The problem doesn’t start or end with coffee capsules, though. The issue of recyclable coffee cups has been gradually taking up a larger and larger part of the conversational space with environmentalists for some time now.  With about 58 billion paper coffee cups thrown out each year (that’s about 250 million pounds or 125 million tons if you’re keeping track), the paper cup problem is one that’s been weighing heavily on minds of environmentally concerned coffee drinkers. Here are a few facts about disposable coffee cups that may shock you.

  • Until recently, disposable coffee cups have not been recyclable
  • The average coffee drinker throws away 250 coffee cups per year
  • It takes 20 million trees and 12 billion with a B gallons of water to make the paper for those cups
  • Disposable coffee cups take up about 3.35 billion cubic feet of space in landfills – that’s about 50 football stadiums full of coffee cups in landfills every year
  • Keurig users threw away more than 3 billion non-recyclable, nonbiodegradable K-cups in 2012

 

Two Green Solutions to the Disposable Coffee Cup and Disposable K-Cup

There is a solution to the problem of disposable coffee cups and disposable K-cups – or rather a couple of them. They are:

  • Choose a reusable cup for your K-cup or takeaway coffee habit
  • Find a recyclable option

 

The first is far easier to find than the second. There are a number of options available for both reusable K-cup filters and reusable coffee cups. They include the EkoBrew and Solofil reusable K-cup baskets that allow you to use any coffee in your Keurig brewer, and your favorite travel mug – if you can still find a coffee shop that will refill it.

The other choice – finding a recyclable option – has been more elusive, but now that Keurig’s exclusive patent for K-cup technology has ended, other companies have started stepping up to create K-cup compatible capsules – and some of them are recyclable. At least two independent coffee roasters are now packaging some of their coffees in 100% recyclable K-cup-compatible packaging: Dean’s Beans of Orange (Re-Cups), Massachusetts and Mystic Monk Coffee of Powell, Wyoming (Monk Shots).

As for disposable coffee cups, there are some recyclable options, but they’ve generally been more expensive and much more difficult to find. In July, however, a UK company opened a recycling plant in Cumbria, UK that can separate the plastic content in paper coffee cups and allow disposable paper cups to be recycled. James Cropper, a UK paper company, developed the technology that allows them to recover high-quality paper fiber for re-use.