Future of the Humble Keurig K-Cup?

Future of the K-Cup?

We have had some interest in our recent articles on the recycling of K-Cups and the impact they have on the environment, or more importantly how we may go about reducing this impact.

Following on from these articles we wanted to go into a bit more detail about the make-up of these little pods and in particular the plastics used in their production.

As we covered previously a K-Cup is made-up of three main parts, being the cup, the filter and an aluminum foil: Today’s attention is going to be on the outer casing.

The outer plastic casing of the cup is made out of a range of composite plastic materials, referenced as number 7 in the 1 to 7 range of plastic recycling grading. Grades 1 to 6 cover a range of plastics that are generally recyclable and include PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), HDPE High Density Polyethylene) and EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). However number 7, referred to as “Other” includes plastics such as SAN (styrene, acrylonitrile), ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), and PC (polycarbonate). These types of plastics include resins, laminates and combination plastics.

And this is one of the major problems that have persisted in the ability of customers to get their K-Cups recycled at the curb-side. Because of the type of materials that Keurig use in the production of the outer casing, local authorities have not been able to find a cost effective means of recycling this composite type material.

We are guessing the reason Keurig use this type of material in its production process is it needs to have a capsule that keeps the coffee grounds inside air and water tight and able to withstand high pressures during the brewing process.

Often tied into the question about the ability to recycle K-Cups is the impact the plastics of the pods themselves and the Keurig brewers have on peoples’ health. In particular the leaching of Bisphenol A or more commonly referred to as BPA. This synthetic compound has been around since the 1950s and is used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products. Why it has come under greater public and media attention of late is its link to impacts on human hormones and in particular the health of the very young and sick.

From our research Keurig does not use BPA in the production of its K-Cups, however some parts of of a Keurig Brewer do contain BPA (although this does not include the water reservoir). We are strong believers in the individual consumer doing their own research into what type of health risk a substance like BPA does pose to their health and then review the products they are happy to use that contain them. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed this compound on a number of occasions and found it acceptable for certain uses but not others, for example it can’t be used for baby bottles, its difficult to say how this impacts on each person as an individual.

For us personally, we are happy to continue to use our trusty B60 and enjoy the great coffee if producers. But maybe in the future we’ll take a different view. In the mean time Keurig need to take another look at the plastic used in the outer K-Cup casing and see if the move to another compound, that can be recycled, will be better for its customers and the environment.