After Getting Slammed, Keurig Promises To Find Recyclable Versions Of K-Cups

Keurig’s single-use coffee pods might be convenient, but they can’t be recycled. Clean Water Action is calling on them to clean up their act, and Keurig has promised to try really hard.

“Our concern is that they are not recyclable,” Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action told CBSDFW. “That means they end up in the landfills and incinerators, and impact our health. The emissions end up in the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Following the criticism, Keurig posted a pledge on its website to really give it the old college try:

Reducing the environmental impact of our packaging materials and brewing systems is a top priority for Keurig. It is a challenge to create a portion pack that is recyclable and delivers an extraordinary cup of coffee; however, Keurig is actively working to meet this challenge head on.

The K-Cup® package is made up of three main elements — the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. The polyethylene coating of the foil – as well as the process of heat-sealing the various elements – makes recycling difficult.

The portion pack composition prevents oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee. Without the barrier the packaging materials provide, we could not maintain quality or freshness.

The company’s statement suggests that if you want fresh pod coffee, you’re going to have to put up with special un-recyclable materials for now. You could also get your beans ground and use a french press and not have to worry about creating waste that can’t be recycled.

Social Responsibility [Keurig]
Coffee Machine Maker In Hot Water Over Plastic Cups [CBSDFW]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    Or you could buy one of those insertable contraptions that you put your own coffee grounds in. The ones I have work pretty well and save money.

    • ponycyndi says:

      We have those in some of our offices, so that wouldn’t apply there, and I’m sure the use is much higher in an office than anyone at home could drink alone.

  2. mauispiderweb says:

    Or you can get the filter they have and fill it with your own coffee.

    • Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

      Great animal minds think alike!

      • mauispiderweb says:

        You said it! :)

      • eigenvector says:

        I bought one of those for the K-Cup at my job. It didn’t work out well. Water seeped from out of the top of it and into the coffee. There just wasn’t a good seal. (I’m pretty sure I’m not the inept one at fault, but I’ve underestimated my ineptitude before.) And cleaning it for a second cup was a real treat.

        I think I’m just going to give up the K-Cup at work altogether. It’s getting dangerously close to the waste of materials that bottled water is.

        • failurate says:

          I am having similar problems with the re-usable filter. I can’t seem to get it to create a decent cup of coffee.
          Going back to the french press.

        • cete-of-badgers says:

          Bottled water containers are generally made of high density polyethylene, which is recyclable. K-Cups are definitely worse than bottled water.

    • Bripanov says:

      Only works in their home versions, not the office line.

  3. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I purchased one of those refillable coffee things, but I have to say – after about 2 months it gets old. Especially when you want one and its full of coffee because someone didn’t empty it out. And grinding your own beans FIRST? Always results in too much or too little grounds.

    I know there are lots of variations, but the ones I bought: are made of plastic, and the lid is hinged with plastic. After about 6 months, the lids on both snapped off. They were difficult to clean, even when done immediately after a brew (HOT!) and if someone let them sit well then they were nigh IMPOSSIBLE to clean.

    I didn’t get the one my parents have because you have to take out the brewing basket, and my mom says hers constantly leaks.

    • Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

      The ones I use you do have to take the thing out of the basket (probably the same one your parent’s have or a close approximation), have a screw on cap and, after over a year’s use, still work quite well. And I don’t find it all that difficult to grind a handful of beans to dump in when I calculate the money I’m saving by not buying the prefilled Kcups.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        I offset some of that cost by buying in bulk on Amazon. With prime membership its crazy cheap, especially when compared to grocery store packs.

  4. Scurvythepirate says:
  5. aloria says:

    The refillable k-cups are good, but not really practical in large office environments which tend to use these to avoid the whole “someone keeps forgetting to make a new pot of coffee/wash the carafe/turn off the burner” annoyances. Considering the number of k-cups an office goes through in a day, having these recyclable could really lead to a significant waste reduction.

    • sj660 says:

      That would be great, but I have to tell you: in my experience, K-Cups save so much water, energy, and not to mention coffee just in my house alone, that I think they are a net plus for the environment.

      If they can make the cups recyclable, great. If not, we have to consider the big picture. Broader environmental consequences have to be considered. Otherwise this is just counting angels on the head of a pin.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        How do they save water, energy, and coffee? Were you dumping un-drunk coffee down the drain?

        • sponica says:

          I always ended up brewing too much coffee…because I never knew which morning who was going to be drinking coffee…and I don’t know about you, but I don’t like old or reheated coffee

          • failurate says:

            Not sure what type of beans or water you are using, but a whole pot of coffee can most likely be made for less than the cost of a single K-cup.
            If you drink more than one cup out of the pot, you will be ahead by almost 100%.

            • sponica says:

              well that’s only if EVERYONE agrees to drink Dunkin Donuts or whatever brand of coffee grounds I decide to buy….I am by no means a connoisseur of coffee. I just know I want something not Maxwell House…

              I have a Keurig and I tend to brew my own…but most days I only have one cup of coffee. But sometimes it’s just easier to use the K-Cups…

              there are 3 coffee drinkers in this house (4 if you count my sister’s bf). I like light roast blends that aren’t flavored, my stepdad prefers flavored coffee (french vanilla, mocha, pumpkin…you name it), my sister will either drink pumpkin or breakfast blend, i think her bf likes darker roasts…if we actually attempted to brew a pot of coffee it wouldn’t go over very well…or we just wouldn’t drink coffee at home and would buy a cup of dunkin donuts

              k-cups ARE cheaper than getting a cup of DD every day….I can buy 24 cups for 13 dollars and have the flexibility of having decaf and regular in that 24 cups….

    • FigNinja says:

      True, but then it’s not like they don’t make machines that brew on demand without the waste. We have a couple in my office. They grind the beans for each cup, too.

    • Mi Poo says:

      In our office we went crazy and got everyone their own re-usable pod (about $13 each on Amazon) That way if it’s not cleaned out after use, you know exactly who to blame.

  6. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Also, the k-cups have recycle symbols on them. If you cut them open to remove the grounds I’m certain your local recyclers would take them.

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      er — that’s nice, but what’s the number in the middle of the recycling symbol?

  7. LandruBek says:

    If you want something that “delivers an extraordinary cup of coffee,” don’t use a Keurig. I get much better results from a drip coffeemaker.

    • FyreGoddess says:


    • aloria says:

      I have the opposite experience. K-cups give me a consistently tasty cup of coffee. The coffee I brew in my drip maker always tastes weird– either too strong and bitter or flavorless. I’ve experimented with different beans and can’t find anything that I enjoy as much as the Dark Magic K-cups.

      • elangomatt says:

        I am with you there. I have a keurig mini in my office that I use all the time. One time someone was trying to get rid of the last cup of coffee from the community coffee maker so I took it. I just about had to dump the coffee out it tasted so bad. I probably would have had to toss it if my cup hadn’t been half filled with my first cup of coffee from my Keurig.

        • LandruBek says:

          Yeah, any coffee that sits around sizzling on the hot plate is horrible. My approach is to perk a pot of coffee and get it as quickly as possible into a thermos.

          My experience with the Keurig is that the coffee seems weak. It’s not terrible, just mediocre IMO. Not what I would call “extraordinary.” Anyway, I’m pleased to hear that some Keurig users out there are satisfied — it makes the world feel a bit less broken, albeit to a miniscule degree.

          • elangomatt says:

            I’ll admit that the coffee from k-cups can get kinda weak if you use too large of a cup setting. For most k-cups I find that if you use it for anything more than 8oz of water then it is too weak. There are some k-cup varieties though that pack more grounds into the k-cups and can brew a pretty decent 10oz sized cup of coffee without being too weak.

    • brneyedgrl80 says:

      I agree. It’s decent enough for a fast cup of coffee, but when I have more time at home I love my vacuum coffee pot. Best coffee ever because of the brew time involved.

      My vacuum pot takes about 15 minutes from start to finish for a cup of coffee as opposed to the Keurig which takes, what? About two minutes?

    • VectorVictor says:

      Vehemently disagree. I’ve had some of the best cups of coffee this side of a artisan coffee house via Keurig, and the coffee itself is the same–the process is different.

      If you want to knock environmental impact, the amount of space a Keurig takes up compared to a ‘traditional’ drip coffee maker, or look into the cost/cup ratios, then so be it.

      But considering you can use your own coffee, and that all of the commercial coffee providers are or will be (Starbucks next January IIRC, among others) on board, one can’t *really* knock the coffee w/o coming off as uninformed.

  8. Hirayuki says:

    Senseo pods are most often sold loose in a bag. I don’t think the bag itself can be recycled, but at least the completely biodegradeable pods inside aren’t individually packaged.

    Although nowadays I usually buy my pods from an online store that sells them individually wrapped in a plasticky kind of foil (?) and further packaged in cardboard boxes. Win some, lose some.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Neither are K-cups. They come in a cardboard box (recyclable) and are stacked loose.

      • Hirayuki says:

        Yes, but when you unwrap a box of K-cups down to the smallest useable unit, it’s still mostly landfill fodder, whereas the smallest useable unit of a Senseo pod can be thrown on a compost pile when you’re done with it.

    • aloria says:

      I have a Senseo, but I can’t stand that weird foam that it makes with every cup. If it could produce a normal cup of coffee, I’d still use it.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        But that’s the whole point of a senseo, you get a cappuchino with every cup.

        • aloria says:

          A cappuccino is espresso, hot milk, and milk foam. What a Senseo produces has foam, yes, but it is by no means a cappuccino.

      • gnordy says:

        The foam in Senseo is called a creme layer. It is very popular in Europe, where Senseo has a larger presence. It is not intended to make the coffee a “cappuccino”, the purpose is to keep the flavor in the coffee longer.

  9. lvixen says:

    I use the EZ-Cup. The filters are a little pricey but the cup is spring loaded so it tamps the coffee. You use your own coffee, the filter and pop it when you are done. The lid is a separate piece so nothing can snap. I also buy k cups but this way I can use my Keurig for the other coffees that done come in cups like Boca Java and Gevalia.

  10. sj660 says:

    Oh you have to be kidding me. K-Cups prevent so much waste, including of water and energy, it has to balance out.

  11. Jedana says:

    We use both the prepackaged cups (for Mister Jedana) and the fill-your-own filters with the screw on lid. I usually take the coffee grounds out of mine and dump them in the pepper plants growing outside.

  12. marillion says:

    What would be nice is a completely biodegradible cup.. A friend with a kurig (and a big coffee habit) is forever digging grounds out of the cups after use and putting them in her compost pile.

  13. HSVhockey says:

    I never understood the draw of this thing, though that may be because my idea of a cup of coffee is what most people refer to as a pot of coffee (severely addicted to caffeine). I prefer a french press/electric kettle combo and just buy bags of course ground in any flavor I want at the store. I can make the perfect size cup every time.

    • NatalieErin says:

      I would never get one for my home (we use a french press) but it has been amazing at the office. Before we got the Keurig, we only had this pre-ground, low-acid Folgers because of one person. It was some of the worst coffee I have ever had in my life. The Keurig allows the other 6 of us to drink something that doesn’t absolutely suck.

  14. jrwn says:

    Um, haven’t these been out for years now. If it takes them this long to realize this, I’m glad they weren’t made out of uranium or something.

  15. fruvous says:

    Aren’t Tassimo pods also unrecycleable?

  16. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    Now if they could only make a dependable coffee maker. We gave up on our third in a year recently. First one die after three months. Sent it back for a replacement. Second one died after almost six months. Third one started making coffee and strange noises shortly after buying it.

    Back to Mr. Coffee.

  17. km9v says:

    They could use an all aluminum k-cup.

  18. HannahK says:

    I have had a k-cup machine for years and I’m a big fan of Green Mountain as a company. I actually buy their story that they are trying to develop *quality* k-cups that are recyclable. I can say that the Dunkin Donuts k-cups taste just like a real cup of Dunkins coffee (which might be a good or bad thing depending on your taste). It took them a long time to bring them to market,so I do believe that they are committed to quality before they start selling something.

    In the mean time, the fact that the reusable inserts are vastly cheaper than buying the disposable k-cups is a good thing. The best way to make people care about the environmental impact is to reflect it in the cost.

    • GirlWithGloves says:

      Green Mountain has some of the best flavors/coffees! Their Half-Caff is a staple for me. Recently discovered their Pumpkin Spice! Too bad it’s sold only this time of year.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        Island Coconut is their biggest seller. Personally, I can’t do without Italian roast (makes French roast taste like weak tea!).

  19. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I recycle my own coffee at home after an hour or so.

  20. Zerkaboid says:

    Meh, we’ll all be dead in 100 years anyway

  21. Ratty says:

    I brought a french press to work. The k-cups we have really bother me for the waste and general blahness. But my biggest beef is the sludge buildup in the machines. Even if I want my mug of sumatran coffee black, people before have been making macadamia nut or vanilla or white hot chocolate drinks and it taints it.

    • DaBull says:

      What sludge buildup? The coffee doesn’t run through anything except the bottom of the K-Cup holder. If you somehow still taste coffee from a previous brew, you should run it on the smallest setting without a K-Cup, hopefully flushing out any remnants from prior flavored coffee drinkers.

  22. momtimestwo says:

    I love my Keurig. I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, I have only 1 cup of coffee a day and each cup is perfect because of my awesome Keurig. I recycle everything else, and it would be nice if the k-cups were recyclable, but the box they come in is at least.

    • NCB says:


    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I love my Keurig also. I also reuse my plastic k-cups by ripping off the aluminum cover and empty the coffee and rinsing the filter inside. After it dries, I fill it with my own coffee and use something called a my-kap which sits on inside top of the my-cu. You can get these at:

      I re-use my k-cups about three times before tearing out the filter. This site also sells new filters that you can place inside the cup and fill with your coffee.

  23. [censored] says:

    Can I post links? I guess I will find out.

  24. Jawaka says:

    Its amazing how many “top priorities” companies have and how they coincidentally always seem to come to light when they get bad press about something.

  25. whiterussian says:

    Aeropress FTW!

  26. snoebay says:

    Keurig’s are overpriced and a expensive way to make coffee,plus the fact that the cups are not recyclable makes them not at all attractive. I’m not a coffee snob and all I drink is one cup in the morning from my trusty 4 cup Mr. Coffee. The paper filters are cheap and recyclable .

  27. TimothyT says:

    Is there a landfill shortage that I haven’t heard about? I say we have bigger things to worry about like inflation, unemployment, and $4 per gallon of gas. Wake up people!

  28. Jane_Gage says:

    Recycling “creates emissions” too. Unless you have some compelling reason to drink out of a bottle (I figure the phthalate lechate and chlorine is a toss up) rather than using a portable cup I would avoid them.

  29. Jane_Gage says:

    Recycling “creates emissions” too. Unless you have some compelling reason to use then (I fgirue the phthalates in the bottle and the chlorine from the tap make it a toss-up) I would avoid using them.

  30. FLConsumer says:

    K-cups are certainly more environmentally friendly than the styrofoam coffee cups that so many coffee places and offices use. Not ideal, but things were much worse.

    Anyone remember the old plastic Solo coffee cups with the plastic holders? Those were easily 2x the plastic of a k-cup.

  31. OldJohnB says:

    3 words-stovetop moka pot
    ’nuff said

  32. OldJohnB says:

    3 words
    stovetop. moka. pot
    grind yer own beans and you’re good to go

  33. OldJohnB says:

    3 words
    grind yer own beans and you’re good to go

  34. OldJohnB says:

    stovetop moka pot
    ’nuff said methinks


  35. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    …so, I guess I was assuming that the reason you couldn’t recycle them is because there’s coffee grinds in the cups. I don’t think it matters what you make the cups out of, because unless you’re going to manually open and discard the grinds after making your coffee, the thing isn’t going to be recyclable anyway.

  36. JackSchitt says:

    Could someone tell me why they chose not to use aluminum or tin-plated steel cans? Those are designed to keep highly perishable foods fresh for years.

  37. shoan says:

    The reusable filter is fine but you have to use a finer grind of coffee with it or it comes out either super weak or overflows the top.

  38. atomoverride says:

    so wait. those cups are not recyclable? shit ive been rising them out and throwing them in my recycling bin. Oh well not my problem ill be dead before I have to worry about it.

  39. Onesnap says:

    The environmental impact every day of all of the people that drink (and throw away) the Styrofoam Dunkin’ cups (or plastic ones they don’t put in the recycle bin) is far greater. I do not feel the 1 k-cup/day thrown into the trash in my house (made into a travel mug) is really that large of an impact or something I need to feel guilty about. Those that go to Dunks daily and throw away 1-2 styrofoam cups/day have a lot more to be concerned with.

  40. Nitpicky Consumer says:

    The environmental ‘pledge’ quoted here is almost a year old, so it is interesting that this is suddenly making news. We’re in a big office, and we’ve tried lots of options, and only the K-cups have ‘kept the peace’ in the kitchen. We *have* tried to save them and rip them apart, but it is nearly impossible to extract the filter from the cup, so even if the cup is recyclable — which I don’t believe it is in many places — the filter makes it non-recyclable. The one thing you can do when ripping them apart is dump the grounds into a bin for composting. We’ve been doing this at our office for nearly a year, as part of our participation in the Arlington Country Virginia Green Games, but you need some dedicated folks to help with it. It’s a LOT of work.

  41. Brian Cooks says:

    I’ve never seen one of these machines in someones house. I have seen them in businesses where it’s pretty nice to have that variety without having a dozen air pots chilling on the counter.

  42. wobiii says:

    Jesus fucking christ leave our k cups alone, there are alternatives such as the filter. Your health because of my coffee? Give me a break.

  43. soj4life says:

    I don’t know if they could have the plastic cup portion being made from a form of plastic that is recyclable, it is holding a liquid that is anywhere from 190 – 200 degrees. If they are able to have the cup portion being of the plastic that is recyclable, there are another 3 components that need to be removed. The best solution they could have is to have specific k-cup sellers, like Kitchen & Company, to have plastic tubs that customer could discard their k-cups at. Heck they could have the tubs look like a k-cup.