Have you seen one of these? Recently, I stayed at a place that had one, and tried to quickly block it out of my mind. Here I am, face to face with this complete waste of space. It’s clear there’s a lack of thought with regards to disposal here. Instead of asking Keurig about their product line, I’d rather share my reservations with you to see what you think (and I’ll also ask them in the meantime).
In case you aren’t aware of these things, it’s a single serve coffee machine that sells you on the point that you get a fresh cup of coffee in a minute or less by using these questionable junk plastic cups. They might be recyclable (no obvious marking on them although they claim they’re polypropylene), but more importantly the process is extremely wasteful.
One of their competitors (I think? Who knows who owns who anymore?) teamed up with Terracycle to have a collection process to compost the contents and recycle the cups into another use (program no longer in operation). I applaud Terracycle’s creativity and their founder is a great dude, but they shouldn’t need to exist if everything was handled by the companies that create the mess. “Awesome solutions for ignorant problems” should be their real slogan.
I recently reposted a great article by Mike Ewall that explains how societal problems are shifted onto us the consumer and away from the corporations that need to be addressing them. Keurig falls squarely into this of course, and they address the problem with a few copy/paste corporate paragraphs you’ve read before…here we go:
“The manufacturing requirements of the K-Cup® pack currently make recycling difficult. The K-Cup® pack is made up of three main elements: the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. The pack’s components prevent oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee. Without the barrier the packaging materials provide, we could not maintain quality or freshness. However, we are actively working to meet the challenge of creating a pack that reduces environmental impact and continues to deliver an extraordinary cup of coffee.”
So is Keurig implying that all coffee that comes in kraft paper bags (100% compostable) isn’t going to provide a quality fresh cup? Even though any coffee that you get in kraft paper bags, grind the beans yourself and use a french press will taste eons better and not have any waste (compost the bag, use the tin tie in any number of ways)? Stating the obvious, this appliance is purely for convenience. I wonder how many people that have one of these ever make their own coffee with a press? Those that do must wonder about the waste of this thing, right?
They also remind me of the ultimate corporate cup, which must be a good part of their market… I’ve witnessed a collection effort at an office space for a similar system (a Terracycle program existed at one point), and the feedback was that it was a pain to even do that. No one trusted that the collection resulted in any real reduction or recycling, which doesn’t surprise me that much. It’s a shame, because they were taking action and became disenchanted.
Back to the company paragraph: Saying “we’re working on it” is the best way to never do anything and to forever shut up those that are looking to see what you’re doing (I love saying “coming soon” or “working on it” to buy myself time to write about stuff when I really need to clear my head and keep myself from whining like I’m doing here…maybe that’s what they’re doing but I highly doubt it). Polypropylene leaches toxins. Blasting steaming hot water through it is going to leach crap into your cup, beyond the infamous BPA. It’s used because it’s strong and lighter than other plastics? For flavor protection or profit margin?
Of course they mention that recycling polypropylene is available in most places around the U.S…. but because it’s collected doesn’t mean it’s recycled by any means. I wish I didn’t know that, but I do.
Simple solution to all of this? Buy your own bag of beans in a kraft paper bag (or biodegradable PLA lined if you must) instead of those shiny plastic bags that have no end use. Press your own coffee. Leave it at that. Spend the couple of minutes and enjoy your coffee that you made by yourself. Plan B: buy your cup from a respectable coffee shop (whatever that means). Plan C: Drink more water. Plan D: If you have to have the convenience of this product, please contact them and demand a change to their process.
Solution for Keurig? Use paper cups (think ketchup cups at fast food establishments) and experiment with wax liners (if you’re already doing that, talk about it!). Could it really taste any worse? Better yet, focus on your coffee and give your machines a rest. Why is it acceptable to be so wasteful? Yep, we made people lazier at the expense of more plastic waste, more ingested toxins and a crappier cup of coffee. Cheers mate!
Update: Keurig makes a reusable K-Cup. Yes, this is nice.
Next, they need a cup manufactured from a material that gets recycled.
Choking on plastic.