Are K Cups Bad for the Environment?

Smell of CoffeeI was over at my parent’s house the other night and my mother asked if I’d like a cup of coffee.

While this is not something that’s abnormal, it just so happened that on this night, there were three of us wanting a cup.

As the smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air of the kitchen, I watched as one, two, three plastic pods plummeted into the trash and stopped to think for a moment…

…If one family can quickly toss three of these plastic containers in the trash in a matter of minutes, how many are filling landfills worldwide every day?

Are K-Cups Bad for the Environment?

Planet Earth with GarbageYes, the excess waste that is created by millions of plastic K-Cups being thrown away every day is certainly not doing any favors for the health of our planet.

How Many K-Cups are there in Landfills?

Well, according to an infographic published by Keurig, the company has sold more than 57 billion K-Cups over its’ lifetime.

Yes, you read that correctly…

57 BILLION with a B

That’s enough plastic pods to wrap around our little planet MORE THAN 72 TIMES!

Even with some media outlets like the Chicago Tribune saying that in the grand scheme of things, our K-Cups aren’t killing the planet…

…you know as well as I do that circling the globe with plastic 72 times can’t be great for its’ health.

That’s just cold hard common sense, folks.

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can lessen environmental harm while still getting to enjoy a quick, easy and freshly brewed single cuppa joe.

How can you reduce the impact of K-Cups on the environment while still enjoying their convenience?

Well, for starters, while not the best way, recycling is perhaps the most widely available method.

Can You Recycle Keurig K-Cups?

Simply put, yes, K-Cups are recyclable.

Recycle YesIt’s just very tedious to do so.

On top of that, as of now, many official K-Cups are still made from #7 plastic which isn’t accepted at very many recycling facilities.

Before recycling your used K-Cups, make certain you check at your local center.

To give credit where it’s due, Green Mountain Coffee is planning to have all K-Cups more easily recyclable by the end of 2020.

If you’d like to follow along with their progress, you can do so here.

For now, if you can recycle #7 plastic in your area, you must do the following:

  1. Remove the foil lid from the K-Cup.
  2. Rinse off the lid and recycle it with other metal items. Note: Most centers will pay $$$ for aluminum. If yours does, keep your foil lids in a baggie until you have a few pounds worth to make a little bit of extra cash. Hey, you could use it to shave off the costs of your next coffee order, right?
  3. Empty your used coffee grounds into a container to compost. Coffee is great for plants and your garden will thank you.
  4. Remove the paper coffee filter from the pod.
  5. The filter can either be recycled or added to your compost bin with the coffee grounds.
  6. Recycle the plastic shell with your other plastics.

Again, as I briefly stated above I wanted to start out with recycling because it is the most accessible option for most people.


As you can see above, recycling your K-Cups can be very inconvenient and time consuming.

After all, the reason most of us (myself included) use Keurigs in the first place is because they save quite a bit of time.

Thankfully, if you’re set on recycling, there’s a handy little tool that makes things much easier that you can snag for less than $15.

As you can see in the video below, this little tool can save you quite a bit of time.

If you’re concerned about the environment but still want to enjoy a delicious single serve fresh cup of coffee like I do from your cure, then you have a couple of other options that are much easier than recycling.

Filling Your Own K-Cups

Reusable K-cupYes, believe it or not, you can use your own coffees with a reusable K-Cup rather than having to use those little plastic pods.

Personally, I have been able to get a much better-tasting cup of coffee by grinding my own beans and then using one of the refillable pods.

Even better, using one of these refillable K-Cups can save you a whole lot of money.


Well, for starters you can pick up one of the many different varieties of refillable K-Cups for right around $10.

That’s certainly not going to break the bank when you consider the fact that on average, you pay more than $50 per pound for regular K-Cup coffee according to The New York Times.

No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money for a pound of coffee.

Especially when you take into consideration the fact that you can by almost 3 pounds of delicious whole bean coffee for less than $25.

So, it goes without saying that picking up one of the many different refillable K-Cups on the market is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

However, it is important to note that not all these little refillable pods are created equally.

There are some that are much higher quality than others and depending on how frequently you plan to use it, you want to make certain that you’re getting the best product for your money.

While I do plan to review some of the best refillable cup options out there later, in the meantime you can check out customer reviews on some of the refillable K-Cup varieties listed below.

An Eco-friendlier K-Cup

Environmental friendliness and Keurig are two terms that will seldomly be used in the same sentence.

However, there are a few independent companies out there that strive to create a single serve brewing option for Keurig without the environmental impact.

One such company that I’m very fond of personally is the San Francisco Bay Coffee Company.

There are several reasons for this, but I’ll save that for another post.

For this article, the important thing to focus on when it comes to the company is the fact that they are striving to deliver a delicious single serve coffee pod that doesn’t impact the environment as severely as traditional K-Cups.

In fact, if you can shop at a local Costco, you can even pick up their new “No Waste” OneCups that are 100% compostable in industrial setting.

Even if you don’t want to compost, it isn’t hard to conclude that this compostable option to traditional K-Cups is certainly better for the environment overall.

Especially since #7 plastic is totally non-biodegradable.

If you are not familiar with what that means, think of it this way …

… basically, the #7 plastic K-Cup that you throw away today will still be in perfect shape in a landfill in 100 years or more.

Yes, you read that correctly …

… the K-Cup in the trash today will still be here long after you and I are gone, our children are gone, and perhaps even our grandchildren.

That’s a long time for something that we enjoyed in less than a minute to sit around on our planet.

On the flip side, if you don’t have a Costco around, even the non-100% compostable OneCups available on Amazon from the San Francisco Bay Coffee Company are made from renewable plant materials and are completely biodegradable.

All in all, they deliver a great tasting easy to use option for convenient single serve coffee that is also much better for our planet.

Final Thoughts

Yes, K-Cups are certainly not doing the environment any favors at all.

Thankfully, there are several ways that we can still enjoy a delicious fresh brewed cup of coffee without impacting our environment for the next 100+ years.

From recycling to using refillable K-Cup pods or opting for a company that strives to provide delicious single serve coffee while still being environmentally friendly, there are many options that you can choose from to still enjoy a fresh cupppa Joe without leaving a massive footprint.

At the end of the day, we really can enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to convenience and our planet.

What do You Think?

What Do You ThinkAfter seeing all the different options available for you to take your Keurig enjoyment to an environmentally friendly level, what do you think you’ll try?

Are you currently trying any of the methods listed above?

If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Please take just a moment to share your thoughts, comments, or questions below and as always, I hope that you continue to enjoy your daily cuppa Joe.