Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

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

Three of New York City's largest employee pension funds are divesting from securities tied to fossil fuel companies. Alfonzo Forrest / EyeEm / Getty Images

Three of New York City's largest employee pension funds representing civil servants, teachers, and school administrators are divesting from securities tied to fossil fuel companies.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The western edge of the Greenland ice sheet in West Greenland as seen from the air. Ashley Cooper / Getty Images

As the world's ice sheets melt at an increasing rate, researchers are looking for explanations beyond just a hotter climate. A recent study found one answer may lie in the dust.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests during a "Fridays for Future" protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9. Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

By Greta Thunberg

  • Greta Thunberg calls for urgent action to address the climate and ecological crisis.
  • She reminds the world of the promises made to children and grandchildren — a promise they expect to be kept.
  • The proposals being discussed and presented at the moment are 'very far from being enough.'
Read More Show Less
A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less
President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less