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Keurig Coffee Pods Pose Recycling Problems

by System Administrator / Tuesday, 22 April 2014 / Published in

Coffee brewing has undergone a number of revolutions over the years. But today, the coffee-brewing fad comes in the form of "K-Cups" - a revolution created by Keurig. The Vermont-based company, Green Mountain Coffee, makes these irresistible K-cup that let you brew a cup of Joe at the press of a button.

To get a better idea of just how popular Keurig coffee brewing has become, let's look at the facts. A 2013 national report just released some statistics about the most popular coffee brewing methods, and while traditional drip machines still come in first in popularity - Keurig comes in at a close second. The Seattle Times and Plastics News reported that $132 million was spent on coffee pods last year alone.

Why K-Cups aren't good for recycling

Where this all ties back to recycling is simple. Nearly 95% of all Green Mountain Coffee's K cups consist of #7 composite plastic, which is generally categorized as non-recyclable.

From a recycling standpoint, it's more expensive to separate composite plastics and other plastic blends because it requires more advanced separation, screening, sortation and processing for many recycling programs.

What is a #7 plastic?

#7 plastics are made from other plastic resins and it's generally difficult to know for sure what types of materials and subsequent toxins may be in #7 plastics.

Generally, there is a good chance it often contains BPA or the new, equally concerning chemical on the block in the bisphenol class known as Bisphenol-S (BPS). The plastic type and its associated toxins - all make the recycling process more challenging and more costly to process VS recycling-friendly plastics.

Why use #7 plastics?

While Green Mountain Coffee has released plans to manufacture a more recycling-friendly K-Cup, the fact remains that its current #7 plastic cups are a more cost effective solution.

When you break it all down to numbers, the sad fact is that many manufacturers will opt with whatever is the most cost effective. Not the most environmentally friendly. In the case of Green Mountain Coffee, it's simply cheaper for the company to use non-recyclable #7 plastics as opposed to other #3 or #4 plastics.

Bottom Line

The number of manufactured #7 plastic K-Cups produced each year are enough in number to circle the globe five times over again. And for this reason, you start to get a much better idea of the nation's billions of K-cups, which are currently ending up in landfills.

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