Your Coffee Addiction is Ruining the Planet


Hot, brewed, perfectly portioned coffee at the touch of a button. What will they think of next?

Soup, apparently. Green Mountain, the company behind the K-cup phenomenon, has teamed up its Keurig technology with Campbell Soup Co. for a new K-cup that will deliver hot soup in seconds. But while coffee or soup at a moment’s notice is convenient, those handy little pods are bad news for the environment.

Primarily made of non-recyclable foil and plastic, K-cups have taken up nearly a quarter of the U.S. ground coffee market and are being used constantly in the roughly 12.5 million American households that own a Keurig brewing machine. About 5 billion K-cups were sold last year — that’s a lot of plastic and foil destined for a landfill.

Green Mountain entered the $1 billion single-serve coffee market after purchasing 41% of coffee-machine manufacturer Keurig, Inc. in 2002, later buying all of the company in 2006. While Green Mountain started with a corner on the market, it has since lost patent exclusivity for the K-cup model, which means generic K-cups (and even more unrecyclable foil and plastic) will be available in stores.

The new soup product will reportedly be available in three flavors, including chicken noodle, starting next year. The soup pack will include a K-cup pack of broth that is brewed over a packet of dry pasta and vegetables.

As the company continues to grow, Keurig itself has no real answer to the environment question. On the FAQ section of its website, the answer to “Are K-Cups Recyclable?” reads:

“The challenge of protecting the freshness of roasted coffee while using environmentally friendly packaging is one that both Keurig and the coffee industry are committed to overcoming. We are very sensitive about the waste created by the K-cup packs and are investigating alternative materials. Finding a solution for this is a priority for us, and one we hope to have before long.”

In other words, our apologies, but you just can’t recycle these things. While Green Mountain tries to find a greener K-cup, caffeine addicts have other options. For the environmentally conscious coffee drinker, here are some ways you can have your coffee and drink it, too.

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1. Refillable K-Cup

This adapter allows the coffee lover to brew one cup of coffee at a time by putting grounds into a reusable K-cup, which is BPA-free with a built-in stainless steel filter.

2. French Press

Using a French press results in a small amount of coffee that’s brewed without using a paper filter.

3. Reusable Coffee Cup

If you don’t have the money for a Keurig or time for the French press method — or if you just love the coffee-shop atmosphere — bring a reusable coffee cup to your favorite spot. Some coffee houses will even offer a discount. It’s a win-win.