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Recycling: Making Your Coffee Break More Sustainable

Tuesday, September 15, 2020



With the introduction of single-use coffee makers, most break rooms have adopted a Keurig or a Nespresso as an easy solution to differing caffeine tastes and the large pots of stale, burned coffee that none of us truly miss. With a much larger variety of flavors to choose from, quick brew times, and a sleeker look, it is no surprise that these coffeemakers have such a large presence in both commercial and residential settings.

However, for each cup of coffee made by your office’s single-brew coffeemaker, a spent coffee cartridge is usually thrown in the garbage as an afterthought. Although they are small, they really add up. In 2014 alone, the number of K-cups sold could span the globe 10.5 times.[1] Luckily, environmentally friendly solutions are available if you know where to look.

Many single-use coffee companies have set up some sort of recycling program to combat sustainability issues with their products. One of the best examples of this is Nespresso. If you have a Nespresso coffee maker at your home or office space, you can order bags on their website. Once the bag is full, simply seal it and send your used pods back to Nespresso, completely free of charge. You can also drop off used pods at a Nespresso Boutique or partnering store like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.[2] The pods are processed in a number of recycling facilities where the aluminum is turned into other products, and the coffee grounds are converted into compost.[3]

Keurig is beginning to roll out its own recycling programs for K-cups as well. The company is attempting to make their full line of K-cups recyclable by the end of 2020, using polypropylene (a recyclable plastic marked as #5 on the recycle symbol) for the outer element.[4] This still means that users must dismantle the product and separate the recyclable material from the rest, but it is a step in the right direction. Alternatively, offices can purchase recovery bins from Keurig Commercial K-Cycle, Keurig’s recycling program. A large pack of five boxes with paid UPS labeling can be purchased for $129.95.[5]

Although we love the ease of popping a coffee cartridge into the coffeemaker and hitting “brew,” it is important to think about how we can lessen the adverse effects of mass-produced waste. We should enjoy our single-brew coffee and recycle it too. With an extra bit of effort, we can turn our coffee consumption into a more sustainable operation.



[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/

[2] https://www.consumerreports.org/recycling/recycle-k-cups-nespresso-capsules-coffee-pods/

[3] https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/how-to-recycle-or-reuse-nespresso-pods/

[4] https://www.keurig.com/recyclable

[5] https://keurigkcycle.com/place-your-order#smPrice