- Keurig Green Mountain Inc. of Waterbury, VT has announced that it will finally change its multi-layer, No. 7 plastic K-Cup to fully recyclable polypropylene. While the company did not specify when this would happen, Keurig previously said it would make the cups recyclable by 2020. "We will be making significant progress each year before 2020," said Chief Sustainability Officer Monique Oxender.
- Keurig also said that recent testing at three recycling facilities in conjunction with KW Plastics Recycling Division of Troy, AL, shows that 70% of the cups make it through sortation equipment and into bales of recycled plastic. Of the rest, half ended up with sorted paper and half with glass.
- KW Plastics found the test to be a success. "It’s recyclable. It’s recoverable. We have the demand for this. And we’re ready to go. Put it in the recycling stream," said Stephanie Baker, director of market development for KW Plastics.
Melitta has already beaten Keurig to the punch, announcing in July that their single-serve coffee pods are 100% recyclable. For years, the impact of single-serve coffee pods on the environment has been a great concern among environmentalists and those in the coffee industry. Even Keurig K-Cup inventor John Sylvan expressed to The Atlantic for creating the pods, stating, "I sometimes feel bad that I ever did it."
Oxender touted the transition last week at the Plastics Caps & Closures Conference in Itasca, IL, Plastics News reported. She said changes at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to capture the small pods could include changing the speed of the line or adjusting sortation equipment. "There’s an economic incentive to make some changes," Oxender said.
"For about 10 years now we’ve been told they are too small to make it through the equipment," she said. Oxender added that for successful recycling, the foil lids should be removed and contents emptied. KW separated the paper filter during its recycling process, which includes grinding and washing the pods.
Now, for the real question: Will consumers care enough to empty the coffee grounds out of their cups before tossing them into the recycling bin?