Last week, after I’d blogged about coffee and paper filters, it occurred to me that I can’t put off writing about the Keurig in our kitchen any longer. Yes, my husband and I own one of the single-use coffee brewers. I’ve left a long trail of plastic coffee pods to prove it.
I received my Keurig as a gift several years ago and instantly fell in love with it. Not only did I no longer have to scoop yucky coffee grounds into the trash, but I could enjoy several different flavors of coffee every morning. I liked it so much I bought my mom one.
I’ll admit I saw the problem right off. I’ll also admit that I ignored it. Then, as the guilt grew more each time I dropped one of the plastic pods into the trash can, I tried something crazy. I cleaned them out and put them in with my recyclables. I was fooling myself. Mingling k-cups with #2 recyclable will not transform them into something recyclable. It did however, annoy the people at the Waste Management Facility enough to yell at me.
A little k-cup history
While Keurig was starting up back in the 1990’s the developers had a hard time finding the right receptacle for the single-use pods. They needed something that was strong enough to keep the grounds air sealed, that could still be punctured by the brewer’s cap, and remain in tact when the brewer dripped hot water through it. They eventually found that the take-out salad dressing containers from Ken’s Steakhouse fit the bill.
Back then, no one had anticipated that within a decade billions of k-cups would be produced, and that, between offices and homes, if we were to make a chain of the ones thrown out annually, we could wrap it around the Earth ten times. It was surprising then that in 2006 the environmentally responsible Green Mountain Coffee Roaster acquired Keurig.
The company agreed publicly that the environmental impact of k-cups was a concern and vowed to fix it. In the mean time, they developed Earth Friendly campaigns and publicized them on the Keurig website. But finding a more sustainable replacement for the k-cup wasn’t as easy. So, environmental watch groups stepped up their anti-k-cup efforts.
Here’s an example of how environmental activism can move a green mountain!
In 2011 the hashtag ‘killthekcup’ was born. Then someone made a short monster film about k-cups. There’s also a website, killthekcup.org, that tracks and reports on the environmental impact of the coffee pods as well as the progress of the anti-k-cup campaign. These efforts are an example of how environmental activism can make a difference, because since 2011 k-cup sales have declined. Recently, the city of Hamburg Germany has banned the coffee pods from its government buildings.
In April 2016, Keurig announced that it had finally come up with a recyclable k-cup. They promised to begin manufacturing it in coming months and to turn out only recyclable coffee pods by 2020. Three questions remain, though: will consumers make the effort to scoop out the wet coffee grounds from the pods in order to recycle them; will Waste Management Facilities, which are already overrun with plastic receptacles, accept the small plastic cups; will the greenhouse gasses produced when manufacturing k-cups remain as high as they are currently?
There are reusable coffee pods available. We own one. It’s a little bit of a pain to clean and we also have to grind the coffee to put in to it. But it is environmentally friendlier than k-cups. It’s why our Keurig still sits on our kitchen counter.
In truth, we hardly ever use it, (which is probably why I hadn’t blogged about it until now). I’m glad I remembered, though. Whenever I visit the supermarket I notice that there are boxes of many varieties of single use coffee pods on the shelves. The pods in them will end up in landfills, where they will never bio-degrade.
I choose to walk by them.
My husband and I brew our coffee by the pot and, even though we’re still using up the white coffee filters on the top of our fridge, before we switch to unbleached ones, the trash from our daily brews will break down in the landfill. Eventually, we hope to have a composter, where the coffee and filter can break down.
I should also add that we received our shipment from Higher Ground Roasters earlier this week! I’m so impressed with how quickly my order arrived, as well as with the speedy and helpful responses to my many, many emails. I’ll blog more about that later. For now, at least where our morning coffee is concerned, I’m greener now and I’m feeling less guilt!