Keurig Tells People to Recycle Their Coffee Pods; City Says Don’t

by Lloyd Alter

Let’s be serious, a Keurig pod is a product designed for convenience, and taking these apart to recycle is anything but.

Keurig, the pod people we love to hate, has changed the plastic that their pods are made of to polypropylene, which in some municipalities (like Toronto, Canada) is accepted for recycling as Number 5 plastic. So of course, now they are advertising on their packaging that their pods are recyclable.

There is only one small problem; this is a product that is sold on the basis of convenience. People are willing to spend the equivalent of 40 bucks a pound for coffee because boiling water and measuring out coffee and then cleaning the pot is too much trouble.

Let's be serious, a Keurig pod is a product designed for convenience, and taking these apart to recycle is anything but.


The pods are complex little assemblies of coffee, plastic, foil and fabric which no recycling system can afford to dismantle. So Keurig expects that their customers, out of an abiding concern for the environment that never seemed to affect them when they bought the pods, will do it for them.

David Rider of the Toronto Star notes that disassembly takes between five and seven steps, which the Financial Post listed as:

The pod comes out of the machine hot. Let it cool. Then, struggle to peel the foil off its top (unlike yogurt tubs, there is no tab on the foil). Toss the foil in the garbage. Scoop the coffee grounds into the compost. Under the grounds a little paper filter is glued to the plastic. Tear that filter off and discard. Rinse excess grounds off the cup. Now, throw the little plastic cups in the recycling (typically blue) bin.

Seriously, nobody is going to do this. I am staying at a hotel with a Keurig in the room and just tried it; I had to poke through the foil, dig all the coffee out to get to the paper filter and then they expect me to wash it?

But hey, putting “it’s recyclable” on the box with that little green symbol might make someone feel better about buying this junk. So in the worst form of feel-good phoney environmental behaviour they will most likely throw it in the blue bin and cause all kinds of problems. The head of Toronto’s recycling program, Jim McKay, tells Rider:

Organic material left in the pod will contaminate other waste in the bin. We’re already having problems with mixed paper and this could make more of it not sellable. We simply cannot afford to take the risk of further increasing the contamination,” McKay said, adding audits of Toronto blue-bin waste found 97 per cent of pods still contained coffee grounds.

But even if it is recyclable, it doesn’t mean that it gets recycled; the world is awash in plastics right now that recycling programs cannot get rid of since the Chinese shut the door on dirty plastics. And it changes none of the other factors, including the footprint of making the plastics and the pods and the aluminum foil in the first place, and the ridiculous cost per cup.

The coffee pod represents the ultimate triumph of convenience over sensibility. Recycling them is a feel-good sham. As far as Toronto is concerned, they should tell Keurig to get out of town.

Republished with permission from Treehugger.

Related at Care2

Image via Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thank you.

Cindy S
Past Member 10 months ago

I hate coffee

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer10 months ago

I don't use coffee pods.

Danii P
Past Member 10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Danii P
Past Member 10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie St Germaine10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jaime J
Jaime J10 months ago

Thank you!!

Jessica K
Jessica K10 months ago

Making it 'recyclable' could actually add to waste, as people may think as long as I throw it in the bin, it's all good, instead of remember to 'reduce' as well. Thanks.

Ramesh B
Ramesh B10 months ago

Thank you for Info

Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx10 months ago

The following has nothing to do with coffee, but all with pods. The moment I saw that washing powder both for the clothes and others for your dishwasher was available in pods, I wondered whether people really got crazy or not. You know, I don't believe that these plastic pods dissolve completely in water, and that after some years, your machine will be blocked somewhere, and it will cost you a lot of money to repair it.
Although it gets more and more difficult to get the normal washing powder in bulk, in cartons of 3 or 4 kilos, I stick to the old method. No useless pods for me, which most certainly pollute the water. No, thanks very much !!