Quantcast

K-Cup Inventor Admits He Doesn't Have a Keurig, Regrets Inventing Them ... Find Out Why

Food

In a story released this week, Keurig K-cup inventor John Sylvan, who sold his shares of the company for $50,000 back in 1997, admits he regrets ever creating the disposable plastic coffee pods that built what is today a $4.7 billion business. With an estimated nine to 13 billion plastic K-cups hitting landfills last year, Sylvan admits, “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it."

An estimated nine to 13 billion K-cups landed in landfills last year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Pod-based coffee makers like Keurig, designed to create customizable single-serve coffees from plastic pods filled with coffee grounds, can be found in one-third of American households. That pervasiveness is generating a lot of leftover pods that end up in landfills.

Keurig was acquired by eco-friendly coffee producer Green Mountain in 2006, combining names in 2014. While every spin-off coffee pod product produced since the merger (including Vue, Bolt and K-Carafe cups) is recyclable, the company's biggest seller, the original K-cup product made from plastic #7, is not.

When Keurig Green Mountain's design patent on the foil-topped plastic coffee pod expired in 2012, the market was flooded with competing options, many of which are biodegradable or reusable, raising the question: Why won't Keurig Green Mountain follow suit?

According to Keurig Green Mountain's Chief Sustainability Officer Monique Oxender, they're working on it. The company has committed to making all K-cups recyclable by 2020, but concerned citizens say it's not fast enough. A petition set up by the creators of the viral Kill the K-Cup video urges Keurig to expedite the development of their recycling program and has been signed by more than 20,000 people. According to Sylvan, it won't happen any time soon. “No matter what they say about recycling," he said, "those things will never be recyclable."

Supporters of pod-based coffee makers would argue that's not such a bad thing considering the machines require less electricity than traditional brew pots and extract coffee more efficiently from less grounds, saving on the resources required to produce the water-intensive crop.

Coffee is a staple in the American diet and won't be going away any time soon. It offers a slew of health benefits and, most importantly, the jolt of caffeine so many have come to rely on. So what's the most eco-friendly coffee brewing option? According to Murray Carpenter, author of Caffeinated, the answer is, unfortunately, instant coffee.

If abandoning the convenience of your single-serve Keurig for more sustainable instant coffee is out of the question, there are other options. Keurig Green Mountain's Grounds to Grow On program collects used pods turning the grounds into fertilizer and burning the cups for energy. Another company, Terracycle, sells zero-waste boxes where you can collect coffee pods to ship back for recycling.

As for Sylvan, he says he has a solution to Keurig's waste problem but that the company won't listen. As they embark on their own 2020 recycling initiative, he has started a new company Zonbak selling solar panels, in part to offset the negative environmental impact of his K-cup invention.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Man Quits Job to Travel in Solar-Powered Home on Wheels

Reducing Food Waste Is Good for Economy and Climate, Report Says

World's First Plantable Coffee Cup to Replenish Rain Forests

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

Ethics investigations have been opened into the conduct of senior Trump appointees at the nation's top environmental agencies.

The two investigations focus on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and six high-ranking officials in the Department of Interior (DOI), The Hill reported Tuesday. Both of them involve the officials' former clients or employers.

"This is demonstrative of the failures at the very top of this administration to set an ethical tone," Campaign Legal Center Ethics Counsel Delaney Marsco told The Washington Post of the DOI investigation. "When people come to work for government, they're supposed to work on behalf of the public. It's a betrayal of the public trust when senior political appointees seem to give privileged access to their former employers or former clients."

Read More Show Less
Cigarette butt litter. Tavallai / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Dipika Kadaba

We've known for more than 50 years that smoking cigarettes comes with health hazards, but it turns out those discarded butts are harmful for the environment, too. Filtered cigarette butts, although small, contain dozens of chemicals, including arsenic and benzene. These toxins can leach into the ground or water, creating a potentially deadly situation for nearby birds, fish and other wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Thanasis Zovoilis / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Infants less than a year old should not be exposed to electronic screens, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

By Wenonah Hauter

Five years ago this week, an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the devastating decision to save money by switching Flint's water supply over from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Seen as a temporary fix, the new water supply was not properly treated. High levels of lead leached from the old pipes, poisoning a generation of Flint's children, and bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease killed more than a dozen residents.

Read More Show Less
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California is listed as the nation's smoggiest city. Pixabay

Seven million more Americans lived in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution between 2015 and 2017 than between 2014 and 2016, and climate change is partly to blame, Time reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Kissing bug. Pavel Kirillov / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the kissing bug, which can transmit a potentially deadly parasite, has spread to Delaware, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less