Published on January 15th, 2015 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

The Single Serve Coffee Waste Monster [Video]

When I first came across a single-serve coffee maker a number of years ago, I thought it had to be a greener option than standard drip coffee makers: no wasted coffee or water, no energy used to keep the coffee hot, no paper filters. But I quickly saw the waste generated for the plastic and aluminum pods.But it can’t be that much, right?

The video above attempts to create a picture of the waste created by K-Cups and other disposable coffee pods. Yes, it is that much: last year, Mother Jones noted that all of the K-Cups produced in 2013 – 8.3 billion – would wrap around the Earth’s equator 10.5 times. And that’s just one brand of single serve coffee pods… Overall, these little plastic and aluminum pods create around 966 million pounds of solid waste every year.

As we’ve noted before, recycling these pods as they’re currently made is difficult. Single serve heavyweight Keurig makes a handful – 5% – of its K-Cups out of recycled plastic, and is aiming for full recyclability by 2020. Other companies are jumping ahead on this front with recyclable or compostable options. But, at this point, we’re still talking about a lot of landfill space going to coffee pods…

Again, I think single serve coffee has the potential to be much more resource efficient than our usual methods of brewing the stuff… but the trash issue has to be handled. I’m of the mind that refillable, reusable pods are the answer – they’re also much cheaper – but, from what I read, that cuts down on the convenience factor (which I have trouble understanding… how much less convenient is it?). Compostable options also seem like a good idea – just toss the whole thing into the compost bin rather than the trash. Of course, I’m not taking lifecycle into account here – those metrics may make this whole argument moot.

If you’re concerned about the amount of waste generated by this craze, consider signing the petition created by “Kill the K-Cup” (which is run by another coffee company, and which also gave some love to our last post on single serve coffee waste). And, if you’ve got ideas for dealing with this issue, share them with us…

via Straight.com and Container Recycling Institute at Facebook


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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



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