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Throw Away Coffee K Cups :(

Plastic/ Foil/ Paper Coffee Cup Complex Waste....................
Here I focus on an emerging newfangled trend of coffee in complex little single serving material wasting throw away containers..... and one sustainable (refillable) alternative and a call for another alternative eco-friendly quick and easy totally compostable version......

I have tried them in real life; ohhhh ahhh how tasty and fresh and easy... but $30+/ lb for coffee this way plus all of the impossible to recycle plastic, paper and aluminum waste... note that all three materials are normally recyclable, but not with these bastard little cups: they are assembled in a complex way that makes the otherwise compostable coffee and recyclable materials content into a chuck of expensive complex trash.... a throw away/ wasteful and costly system of coffee making... :( oh, but not to be negative nancy, you can actually peel the aluminum cover off and recycle it, and compost the coffee grounds inside, and recycle or compost the paper filter....not bad, just tricky to get the end user to do the extra steps.....

These remind me of the inkjet printer industry: although those little plastic cartridges can be repeatedly refilled/ recycled/ reused with inks... I am only reminded of injet printers because of the plastic cartridge format and horrendous recurring cost ripoff structure associated with the use of these little cups.

Yes, people using them are paying north of $30/ lb for coffee this way :( and diverting the recyclable materials used in their constructing to a landfill... along with the compostable coffee bean grounds inside... that makes for a tripple loser.... what is so cool about that? You have a choice to take them appart though, and recycle everything except for the plastic part.....

The upsides are obvious

They stay fresh for over a year~  

In a small space you can neatly store dozens of different flavors. 

Less fiddling around and much faster than other coffee prep methods. 

Easier to use and more convenient. 

Even if they are used, most of each cup can be ethically recycled. 

If you consider all of the practical benefits for the end user and neglect the huge price premium per cup, then these little cups make a lot of sense..... If you look at the big picture, throwing aluminum, paper and plastic filled with coffee grounds in a trash can is ethically reprehensible..... that should make for a good set of reasons to peel the cover back, compost the contents, recycle the aluminum lit, and trash the light weight plastic cup part.

Any thoughtful person thinking beyond instantly gratifying themselves can understand what I am talking about here.... These throw away coffee cup cartridges are another example of the high costs of low prices. In this example the high costs are externalized from the end user and placed in a landfill... in this example, even the ethical person ends up throwing the plastic part in the trash, and that plastic is made from oil, and if you live in an Oil Importing country, that means more foreign oil being wasted....

Fortunately, people have a smarter choice/ alternative to the throw away cartridges... they actually make re-usable cartridges for these K-machines and other devices like them.... Above we see an image of the "My K-cup" which the user can fill with anything they desire to brew: hops, tea, coffee, ground raw coco nibs, whatever they want.

A person can even choose to buy two or three of these and load them all at once, so they have a day or two of buffer time/ for added convenience. My brother-in-law actually has a K machine and a reusable cup like this, and he pointed this out to me, knowing that I would be intrinsically opposed to using the throw away kind, especially after I learned what the throw away kind are made of.... He was right: I think the throw away versions of these cups are a dingleberry idea: an expensive wasteful throw away system of coffee making. I like the idea of a low impact version that saves the end user money. I have person problem with anything that is a rip off....

Where are the Fully Compostable K-Cup 's ? 

They need to develop a fully compostable k-cup... made of bio-plastics.... like the cutlery at Taco Time..... that people can throw into the yard waste bin.... made entirely of bio-plastics and coffee grounds... so the whole thing can break down in a commercial hot composting process.

Hello World: Where are the compostable K-Cups?

People clearly like the convenience of the cup- brew format.... so give us an ethical alternative that is also "quick and easy"..... We stand to have a mutual win win win with a compostable k-cup, that does not yet exist....

To Be Fair

Two thirds of these little device can be recycle if the end user takes the time to peel back the aluminum cover, where it can then be tossed in the recycle bin. The coffee grounds are compostable and the paper filter can be recycled/ or the paper and coffee grounds can both be thrown in the compost/ yard waste bin/ pile. Only the plastic cup is trash, and because it is made of plastic it can be reused in arts and crafts: trash to art... this kind of plastic is super strong and durable, but not recyclable....

To quote another blog:

"Keurig and its parent company Green Mountain Coffee are currently working to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint of their beloved Keurig brewers—not only by reducing the wasteful packaging of Keurig K-Cups, but also by trying to reduce its overall footprint by researching, what they are calling, the lifecycle of Keurig coffee. In trying to understand the waste that Keurig K-Cups produce, Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee are thoroughly researching every step of the Keurig coffee creation process from tree to K-Cup. Throughout the coffee preparation process, the packaging process and the consumption process, Keurig is committed to reducing the amount of waste that results as a by-product. This way, Keurig will discover where they can cut down on Keurig K-Cup waste." 

Technology is Needed

Compostable plastics need to be designed to withstand the higher temperatures these little cartridges encounter in their use: they need to have the same structural properties as the petrochemical plastics that are currently employed in K-cups and other cups like them.

A bio-degradble/ fully compostable K cup can be developed if we allocate the resources to create them: human ingenuity is infinite, very much unlike the limited oil and metal ore in earths crust. Since people are paying a huge price premium for these machines and cups, the companies that profit from their sale have an ethical obligation to invest in designing more choices and alternatives/ they have an ethical obligation to develop k-cups that can be composted/ that are bio-degradable.

I am not a hater, and I might even use a few more of these throw away kind if it makes situational sense and a non-wasteful alternative is not available: hard to imagine though, cause water is my favorite liquid to drink.... :) and these machines don't make beer either..... :P


  1. Not sure when you wrote this article, but I pitched an idea at a local university last year about solving this problem. I am now launching a biodegradable k-cup. Let me know if interested. I really liked the article and agree that something needs to be done to create sustainable and green k-cup solutions.

    1. Great article Aaron, it really got me thinking about my K-Cup use. To Shawn: as a consumer I am very interested in hearing about your project.

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  2. Where can I get more info about your biodegradable K-Cups??

  3. I think I read somewhere that they have reusable K-cups.