The Problem With K-Cups
Politics and Activism

The Problem With K-Cups

Is the convenience worth the (environmental) cost?


There is no doubt that K-Cups are convenient. In a time where everybody seems so busy, the last thing we want to do is wait approximately 10-15 minutes for those old-fashioned coffee pots to brew our morning cup of Joe. Popular amongst college students and office employees alike, the ‘Keurig’ has seemingly eliminated one last thing to worry about in the morning – getting coffee.

While the use of these single-cup coffee machines – like the Keurig – have eliminated this relatively minor ‘no time in the morning’ problem, they have created a whole new problem of their own. The problem lies in the usage of those ‘convenient’ single-use cups. The fact is, these K-cups are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. While certain aspects of the cups are recyclable, such as the aluminum foil lid, actually taking the time to properly separate the various components of the cup takes away from the convenience of the k-cup. You simply put the cup in, hit brew, then toss the whole thing into the garbage. This is where the problem literally begins to ‘pile up’.

The facts are as such – nearly 27% of Americans have a single-cup coffee machine in their household. This statistic does not even take into account the thousands of offices across the US that use a single-cup coffee machine. It should come as no surprise then, that in 2014, nine billion K-Cups were sold. Nine billion. In fact, these nine billion K-cups, when placed end-to-end, could wrap around the globe an estimated 10.5-12 times. These nine billion, non-biodegradable K-cups ended up in landfills where they shall sit for centuries to come. And the scary thing is, these numbers are only going to increase. Keurig’s corporate mission is to get a Keurig “brewer on every counter and a beverage for any occasion” – a mission that spells serious concerns for the environment (and peoples’ pockets if we are being honest, these things aren’t cheap) unless changes are made to the composition of these K-cups.

Here is a graph of the total percentage of households per year that have a single-cup coffee machine. We saw a large jump between 2014 and 2015, and the trend line (in green) shows total percentage reaching around 33% by 2017.

In a survey I conducted online with 285 participants, 174 of these people had purchased a single-cup coffee machine at some point. Of those 174, 20 people have already stopped using their machine. It is estimated that the average person makes at least two cups of coffee per day. Assuming that all 174 people used their machine every day for a whole year, that would result in a total of 127,020 K-Cups thrown out from those participants alone.

The problem is the plastic used to create the K-cup. Identified as plastic #7, or ‘other’, this hybrid of different plastics (four varying layers) is only recyclable in a few cities in Canada. Some health concerns have also been posed with the use of plastic #7 – does it not seem strange that the plastic can hold its form while boiling hot water is shot through it? Are there any chemical additives that prevent such a thing to happen? Seems a little funky…

In spite of some consumer backlash, Keurig Green Mountain has vowed to make a fully recyclable K-cup by the year 2020. While this is a nice gesture, the fact is, the world cannot take another four years of K-cup waste. Last year, K-cups brought in a total revenue of $4.7 billion dollars for Keurig Green Mountain alone. Not to mention that this same company was recently purchased by a private firm for $13.9 billion. That is a ton of money - money that could be surely used to develop some kind of alternative before 2020, if they were actually serious about tackling this environmental dilemma.

Until then, I have sworn off using the Keurig. In reality, they are overpriced (see graph) and are polluting landfills across the country. If time and convenience are issues for you, invest in a programmable coffee maker – you can have a whole pot of coffee waiting for you upon waking up.

Here I have compared Folgers canned coffee to a 12-cup box of Keurig Green Mountain Coffee. As you can see, you get way more coffee for a lot less if you purchase the canned coffee. In fact, a cup of Keurig brewed coffee is 6.5 times more expensive than a cup of traditionally brewed coffee. Just so you know.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Disney Plus

Millions of musical-lovers around the world rejoiced when "Hamilton," the hip-hop-mixtape-turned-musical harder to get in to than Studio 54, came to Disney Plus.

For those who had the luxury of being able to watch it in person and rewatch it with us mere mortals on our screens, the experience was almost as gripping as sitting feet from Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. From the stunning sets, graceful choreography, witty dialogue, and hauntingly beautiful singing, the experience was one even my musical-averse family felt moved by.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

We Asked You How You Felt About Resuming 'Normal' Activities, And Some Of Your Answers Shocked Us

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists when they'd feel comfortable doing "normal" activities again, considering COVID-19. We asked our peers the same thing, for science.

Last month, the New York Times surveyed about 500 epidemiologists asking about their comfort level with certain activities once deemed normal — socializing with friends, going to the doctor, bringing in the mail. That's all well and good for the experts, but they are a very niche group, not the majority of the population. What do "normal" people feel safe doing? In certain states, we've seen how comfortable everyone is with everything (looking at you, Florida), but we wanted to know where Odyssey's readers fell on the comfort scale. Are they sticking with the epidemiologists who won't be attending a wedding for another year, or are they storming the sunny beaches as soon as possible?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Keto Is All Fun And Games Until You're Undernourished And Almost Pass Out

Keto is just another extension of diet culture that boasts rapid weight loss, but at a steep price.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

There has been a Keto diet craze going around in the past couple of years, with many of its followers claiming significant weight loss. With any new, trendy diet claiming miraculous weight-loss, one starts to wonder what exactly is happening behind the curtain. The keto, or ketogenic, diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that claims to help the body shift its fuel source from carbs to fat. In the medical community it has been prescribed to patients with uncontrolled epilepsy to reduce the frequency of seizures, but other than that there is little conclusive evidence to other potential benefits.

Keep Reading... Show less

Jennifer Kustanovich is not only the president of the Odyssey at Stony Brook University but is also an illuminating yoga instructor. She's an inspiring proactive leader in the wellness industry. Her expertise in movement expands onto Zumba and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

On the last day of her in-person class, she gave everyone a way of contacting her and made sure to check up on all her clients. She wanted to ensure that they were doing okay and to remind them that she is always there.

Keep Reading... Show less

These 5 Black Female-Owned Swimwear Brands Are Must-Haves For Your HOTTEST Summer Yet

To all the woman who put their money where their mouth is, lets do two things for the price of one.

The start of summer is always exciting,(especially after an unprecedented pandemic) and people are itching to make this particular summer count. Correction: with the amount gratefulness I have for life at this moment in time I am itching to make this summer count.

But at the same time, in the midst of social justice issues, activism is something that is at the forefront of many people's minds, including mine. With money comes power and buying Black is a way to directly help the marginalized and oppressed while getting something in return.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Are The Black-Owned Restaurants In Chicago You Should Absolutely Be Supporting

Support the movement and your appetite at the same time with these amazing spots.

The Black Lives Matter movement is taking the country by storm to crash down systematic racism and liberate people of color. However, during these changing it can be hard to determine what you can do to make an impact besides reposting Instagram stories and texting petition numbers. Instead, support Black-owned businesses or, more specifically, Black-owned restaurants. Here are some outstanding and underrated Black-owned restaurants in Chicago that can help you support the movement.
Keep Reading... Show less

10 Things To Know About LDRs, From A Couple Separated By The Atlantic Ocean AND A Pandemic

There will be challenges, but more often than not, it's worth it.

Most individuals in relationships have not been able to go on romantic dates in quite a while due to business closures in the wake of the pandemic. Other couples have encountered challenges while seeing each other face to face in the past three months due to coronavirus regulations. Long-distance relationships have unfortunately become a reality for many in this era of global health crises. Western New York native and travel journalist, Chelsea Baron, knows this all too well.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Easy Summer Mocktail Recipes You Can Make With Items You Probably Already Have On-Hand

Keep these drinks in mind next time you're visiting your local farmer's market — you might want to grab some extra mint and limes.

With Summer 2020 in full swing comes the addition of many fresh fruits and vegetables to brighten up your dinner plate, but also your glass! Farmers markets are my personal favorite place to look for produce that is in season to make fun mocktails with.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments