What To Do With Single-Brew Coffee Cups

The mixture of plastic resins in single-brew coffee cups makes them virtually non-recyclable. Photo: Flickr/aaron_anderer

Keurig’s K-Cup system, the single-cup coffee brewer, boasts some impressive numbers: 2.5 million cups per day in North America, 2 billion cups since 1998 and six percent of the coffee brewed in North American offices.

While the convenience and individuality of the machine is considerable, there remains the little problem of disposal. If 2.5 million cups of Keurig coffee are brewed each day, that means that 2.5 million plastic K-Cups are bound for the trash daily.

On Social Responsibility section of Keurig’s website, the company says that due to the mix of plastic, polyethylene-coated foil and filters – not to mention heat-sealing all these elements together – makes these little cups very difficult to recycle.

Keurig says it is researching the lifestyle analysis of its brewers and is working to find a solution to the K-Cup situation.

In the meantime, you can purchase reusable K-Cups or My-Kaps that let you reuse the plastic cup to brew more coffee. Both methods can significantly cut down on waste. You can also try to reuse the cups in other ways; many Keurig users have suggested composting the leftover coffee grounds and using the plastic cups as seed sprouting pots.

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  1. Nestle has produced more than 20 billion Nespresso aluminum coffee capsules for their single serving espresso machines over the last ten years. That is enough to circle the globe more than 15 times if stacked end to end. That is a lot of aluminum. But there is an advantage to using aluninum over the plastic K-Cup. It can be recycled. Did you know it takes 95% less energy to make aluminum from bauxite ore than to recycle old aluminum into new.

    There is a device that will help you recycle the Nespresso aluminum coffee capsules. It is called the Outpresso. It allows you to easily separate the coffee from the aluminum so that the aluminum can be placed directly into your aluminum recycling bin and the coffee can go into your compost material.

    The Outpresso is now available in the US and you can find out more about it at this website:

    There was also a nice review of the Outpresso on the Single Serve Espresso webite here:

    Thanks for recycling……Andy

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