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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.

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  • Arthur M. 1 hour ago
    The Question of the Day with points awarded has come back!!!
  • Olivia S. 4 days ago
    I use the Keurig but not the pods - I have a reusable / refillable cup - works perfectly - just throw out the grinds into compost pile
  • June S. 4 days ago
    I use a Keurig, but I don't buy the k-cups. I buy the little paper filters and utilize a reusable plastic filter. Once the coffee is made, I take it out of the Keurig and open the top of the plastic cup so the grounds will dry out. The next day, the paper filter and grounds pull right out of the filter and I put them in with my compost.
  • Celia R. 5 days ago
    Nespresso provide a pre-paid sack to return coffee pods. Aluminum is light and easy to recycle, so it makes sense.
  • Gina L. 5 days ago
    I sure wish more people would come here for the information and not just the points. Actually, there are not many places or things to spend your points. I wish there were more options to donate my points. I come for the knowledge and encouragement for keeping our Earth at its best.
    • Gabriele G. 5 days ago
      Most of us are here to learn and the reward is Points. Making a statement like that is not very nice. Some of us have been here for a long time and know how things work but others are new and still have questions.
    • John J. 4 days ago
      Well for me and probably the majority of others this was introduced to us via our local recycling program as a way to increase recycling by awarding us incentives for doing so.
    • Gabriele G. 4 days ago
      I started via Ziploc Brands when they had points on them and you logged them in on the Recyclebank Website a long, long time ago.
    • Joselynn J. 3 days ago
      I have been redeeming for free magazine subscriptions for years but now the fragranced ones are too strong for me to handle so I only get the home, health, & food related ones. I was saving up for the $50 twine gift card but it's not available anymore.
    • Joselynn J. 3 days ago
      Lucky. Our recycling program does not participate with recyclebank, that would be nice to rack up more points so quickly especially when they did have some better giftcard rewards.
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