Single-Serving Coffee Pods and Their Impact on the Environment

coffee and computer

We are a country, in fact a world that loves our coffee. I for one cannot go a single morning without it. Every morning I wake up put in the extra legwork to grind my own coffee beans and I brew using a French press. I do this because I prefer the flavor of French pressed coffee and I find that I waste less coffee by using one. Only recently did I realize that my “superior” culinary tastes are actually better for the environment, too. Traditional drip coffee makers use paper filters, although those can be recycled, and you can even employ reusable coffee filters.

The “K-cup” craze that has swept the country in the last 10 years is a different story, however.

K cups

K-cups by and large have not been recyclable. With nearly 30% of U.S. households owning a single serve brewer of some kind, it’s estimated that nearly 20 billion pods will be used. Most of these non-decomposable pods will wind up in landfill. Once thought to be a trendy convenience, these single serving pods or “K -cups” have become a serious environmental concern. What makes these products so difficult to recycle are the materials used in their construction. Most pods are made from a combination of plastics, aluminum and of course, coffee. It’s the separating of these materials that make it so difficult to recycle.


There is some hope on the horizon, though. Keurig, the company that created the original single serving K-cup, announced last year that they are producing a recyclable K-cup for their machines. They’ve changed up the plastics they use in this particular product, and it makes it far easier to separate it from other materials, indeed making it “recyclable.” This is certainly a step in the right direction, but recyclable doesn’t mean compostable, and these new cups will still do the same damage in a landfill as their older generations. With any luck landfills will just see far fewer single serving pods than in the past.

In the meantime, my advice is to follow in my shoes and get yourself a French press. It tastes better and you can sip with a clear conscience knowing your saving the environment one morning at a time.