Keurig And Other Coffee Pods Piling Up In Landfills Across America

Andres Nieto Porras/CC BY 2.0

It is one of the conundrums of our time: why people would pay more to lock themselves into a proprietary coffee brewing system that generates a ton of garbage when they could use a French Press in about the same time. As Tim Wall points out at Discovery News, discussing the Kuerig system that has become so popular:

The K-cups, as the plastic containers are called, are made of a plastic shell, lined with a paper filter and topped with aluminum. Individually, the components are recyclable, but put together they can only be trashed. What's more, the compost-able coffee grounds are trapped inside.

Nespresso, Tassimo and even Keurig claim that their pods are are "recyclable", but once again, what does that ridiculous word mean? That somebody who buys this thing for convenience is actually going to take off the foil, compost the coffee, separate the paper from the plastic and get them all to the right bin? Or do you let someone else do it? In Spain, they recycle Nespresso capsules; Petz described the process:

The consumer can drop of the used capsules in one of the 100 shops around Spain that participate in the recycling program. A logistics company picks up the used capsules and takes them to a composting plant in Catalonia, Spain. A mechanical process separates the coffee grounds from the aluminium. The coffee is then composted to create high-quality fertiliser whereas the aluminium goes to a nearby recycling plant.

This sounds like a good thing? Is that creating real value or is it just a feel-good sham after all those logistics? And since when is taking something made of paper, plastic and foil and using it once a good thing, even if it is "recyclable"? In 2007 I called it Design for Unsustainability:

Now, instead of having the choice of whatever coffee you want, you pay almost a buck per hit of their choice of brand, and a little plastic, foil and paper turd to throw in the garbage after. In the end, in the name of convenience, we have a machine that creates a captive audience for an overpriced proprietary coffee system that creates unnecessary waste.

Clearly, nothing has changed. More at Discovery News, and watch the video of an engineer explaining it on CNBC.

Follow me on Twitter

Tags: Coffee | Composting | Greenwashing | Recycled Consumer Goods | Recycling

2014 Gift Guide

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK