The environment can be such a buzzkill, always spoiling people’s fun. But manufacturers of water bottles are quietly thanking Keurig, the makers of those evil yet delicious single-serve K-cups, for taking the spotlight off them as the latest eco-villain.
They seem like innocent appliances, simply making coffee for people. Pop a capsule in, press a button, and a minute later, behold — the perfect cup of java. Nothing to measure out, nothing to clean up, just throw the empty pod in the bin and you’re good to go.
But the impact those pods have made on the environment is borderline nuclear. Over the years, the demand for the Keurig coffee makers have only increased (more than 38 per cent of all Canadian households own one, whether it be Keurig, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart or another) and has grown to become a billion-dollar company — with no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately the massive growth also equals massive garbage because, for the most part, the pods aren’t recyclable and the huge amounts of plastic waste wind up in landfills.
Take this video, for instance. Kill the K-Cup looks like a preview for another summer blockbuster, and is about as subtle as a Michael Bay flick, but the implication is clear: K-Cups are destroying the planet and the world as we know it will be no longer if we keep using them.
Wow, right? Well, at least some of Keurig’s competitors already have recyclable or biodegradable versions of their single-serve capsules. Tassimo has teamed up with TerraCycle, and Nespresso’s lid and pot are made entirely of aluminum but perhaps the most impressive is Canadian brand, Canterbury Coffee, which makes OneCoffee, said to be 99 per cent biodegradable.
Keurig is quick to point out that their new multiple-cup pods are fully recyclable, and every new K-Cup product the company has brought out since 2006 is recyclable (including the Vue, Bolt, and K-Carafe cups) — but, frankly, they’re a pain and that convenience you are paying for becomes anything but. The user can’t just chuck them in their blue box; rather, the pod needs to be disassembled into paper, plastic, and metal components.
Keurig announced that the company is evaluating the type of plastic used in the cups and plans to make all their coffee pods recyclable by 2020. So while they haven’t been seriously prioritizing sustainability, at least they’ve finally acknowledged the need for change.