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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Are Coffee Pods Recyclable?

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If you can’t live without the convenience of pod brewers, here’s what you need to know about their recyclability.

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.

What’s your favorite eco-friendly coffee brewing method? Share your pick in the comments.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Bill F. 3 days ago
    don't use pods but do use the ground in my recycleing waste
  • Don d. 4 days ago
    There are many compostable pods now. I’m a big fan of these, and even though they say commercial compost facility, they break down in our back yard composter. Now that’s convenience!
  • Gayle G. 4 days ago
    We have a Keurig at work. We have a refillable Kcup and we also recycle the plastic cups after peeling the top and dumping the contents. I'm looking forward to all Keurig Kcups being recyclable by 2020!
  • Steve P. 4 days ago
    I have the refill-able K-cup, and my coffee bill is much less too
  • Marta B. 4 days ago
    guess I don't use them
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