Keurig has announced a new K-Cup made of a polypropylene composite. They did so in the face of a ton of criticism from environmentally conscious consumers and advocacy groups. In 2015 alone, Green Mountain, a single K-Cup producing company, sold more than nine billion pods. Placed end to end, they could circle the Earth around 10 times.
That’s a single year, for a single company. Those pods? They couldn’t be recycled. These new pods? Well, folks are saying they aren’t good enough.
The polypropylene can be shredded and sold to companies that use recycled plastic. However, they aren’t compostable, and they aren’t reusable. Those last two points, coupled with the billions of pieces of plastic Keurig is selling, has made this solution irrelevant in the minds of critics.
The piece that covers this whole thing in The New York Times illustrates that Keurig is trying to solve the problem. They see themselves as being villainized as they try to meet demands while creating a single serve solution that doesn’t hurt the environment. It’s more than just the pods, though. It’s the production of the coffee and its footprint.
Here’s Darby Hoover, Senior Resource Specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Making coffee wasn’t something that needed to be reinvented…
“The production of each one of these coffee pods requires energy, materials, chemicals, water, transportation…Recycling helps mitigate the effects of sending them to a landfill, but that does not offset the environmental effects of making them in the first place.”
The new cups will occupy half of the supply by 2018, and all of it by 2020, says Keurig.
The other catch? Sure, these new cups can be recycled, though perhaps not in ideal ways. On top of that, the cups require some fuss before you can toss them into the recycling pile. You’ll need to remove the top and dump the grounds before tossing it in the trash. That top has to be peeled, and it’s more obnoxious then easy. When the cups actually do reach your recycling center, they’ll need to be isolated and removed for sale to a third party company.
Not to get all hipster here, but the coffee produced by these pods is bogus anyways. Buy a French press, use a drip maker, go with an Aeropress or try out Japanese pour over. Any of these will yield better coffee than a Keurig. Yeah, they’ll take five more minutes, but they’ll be a fraction of the price, taste better and not leave as big of a mark on the environment.