The Environmental Impact of K-Cups, and the Solution

There are two things that we want: to leave a clean and beautiful planet for our children, and our morning cup of coffee. Recently, these two desires have come into conflict thanks to the rise of single-serving coffee pods. These pods make it easy to brew a morning cup of coffee, but contribute an alarming amount of trash to the environment. As these pods become more commonplace, stories arise of trash bins filled to the brim with thousands of pods waiting to be carted to the local landfill.

The waste is so monumental that recent estimates of 2014 sales numbers show that if you stacked the cups end to end, there would be enough to circle the earth 10.5 times. If you want another way to put this into perspective: that is enough thrown away in one year to give Saturn a new ring consisting of nothing but K-cups. This is obviously not sustainable, but what is the solution?

The Problems with Recycling

Technically, branded K-cups are recyclable, but first the consumer must separate the filter, grounds and cup. Only then can they be recycled at rare and specific recycling centres capable of processing composite #7 plastic. In an ideal world, everybody would be willing to take the extra time to separate these components and sort them appropriately. However, most of us lead very busy lives, and adding this extra step to our morning routine is not reasonable or commonplace.

Even if you do take the time to separate the components, most recycling centers are not designed with such small items in mind. So many times, even consumers’ best intentions are for naught as the carefully dismantled and sorted pods are dumped into the waste stream. In the meantime, we are producing single-serve coffee cups faster than they can possibly be recycled. Demand is only going to increase, and this means more cups going into landfills.



Give up Single-Serve?

Some people have resolved to give up single-serve coffee entirely. What is forgotten is that the single-serve method is a very efficient means of brewing small amounts of coffee. Admittedly, it is harder to picture the amount of water that gets wasted with traditional brewing methods than it is to picture plastic cups circling the globe, but water waste is a very real issue, and single-serve brewing does save in that regard. We need a single-serve brewing method that combines the water-saving aspect of single-serve coffee while eliminating the associated plastic waste.

To meet this challenge, a company called “Club Coffee,” located in Toronto, Canada, has displayed some remarkable innovation. They have found a solution to the single-serve problem that is both practical and truly sustainable: a one hundred percent compostable, single-serve coffee cup that promises to deliver convenience without the waste!  The entire cup can be composted as one unit, without having to dismantle it.  This allows you to toss the cup and filter out with the coffee grounds — a real time saver! This removes these convenience items from the waste stream and creates a solution for single-serve coffee packaging. Club Coffee’s products and their facility, in fact, meet all the stringent requirements required for Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and Kosher certifications.  This Canadian company is truly an eco-friendly innovator! 

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