Dear Recyclebank, Can you recycle K-Cup plastic pods? -Effie F.
Dear Effie—Pod coffee makers like Keurig machines are definitely a convenience, but since their appearance in the home coffee brewing industry, there’s always been a cost for that readily available cup of joe.
The cups, made of plastic and foil fused together, were not originally recyclable. After a backlash several years back and news coverage in which the inventor of the K-cup, John Sylvan, famously admitted he regrets his creation, Keurig has tried to repair some of the environmental damage caused by its products.
The company now has recyclable K-cups, but it involves peeling the foil from the little cups, emptying the grounds, and recycling the #5 plastic shell. Currently, only a handful of coffee varieties are available in the recyclable K-cups (some other manufacturers also make Keurig-compatable, recyclable versions), but the company has pledged that all K-cups will be recyclable by 2020, and is also working towards other sustainability goals by this date.
If you’re a Nespresso drinker, those capsules, which are made of 100 percent aluminum, are recyclable. But for them too, it’s not as easy as tossing in your curbside bin. Since the capsules are filled with coffee, they need to be taken to a collection point (typically a Nespresso boutique) or shipped back to the company.
Hopefully, consumers will actually make the effort to properly recycle these pods, although it certainly offsets the convenience of using a pod brewer in the first place.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendlier brewing method, there are plenty out there –and many make a cup of java that’s as good as, if not better than, the pod brewers. There’s no waste involved with French press brewers or drip coffee makers with reusable steel mesh filters, especially if you compost your grounds or use them as fertilizer in your garden. Another great option, if you like to brew just one cup at a time, is using a pourover system. Compact and inexpensive, coffee purists swear that this method makes some of the best coffee, and you can compost the filters with the grounds – seek out unbleached filters for the eco-friendliest option.