Convenience Of K-Cups Comes With A Cost

By Todd Gutner, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS)  – It is this year’s must have kitchen gadget: the Keurig Coffee Machine. The so-called K-Cup promises a piping hot cup of coffee in just minutes.

“I like it that it’s easy. It’s a fresh cup of coffee every single time,” said one fan.

Each cup of coffee is brewed in a small disposable plastic cup. The coffee is hot, fresh, and troubling to environmentalists like Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

WBZ-TV’s Todd Gutner reports

“Our concern is that they are not recyclable,” said Luppi. “That means they end up in the land fills and incinerators and impact our health. The emissions end up in the air we breathe, and the water we drink.”

Now major coffee suppliers like Dunkin Donuts are rolling out their versions of the K-Cup. A quick glance a Sunday circulars with the Keurig on the front cover are another indication of just how popular this trend is becoming.

And with the number of cups now being tossed in the trash reaching into the billions, a lot of plastic isn’t being recycled.

“It’s hard to recycle because of the multiple materials,” explained Luppi.

First, there’s the plastic cup. Then there is the aluminum foil top which keeps the coffee fresh. Inside you will find a separate filter, too.

“It’s also typically too small to be recycled,” said Luppi. “The trend is that larger materials are accepted typically in recycling programs.

The Keurig Company has this statement on their website: “Finding a more environmental friendly approach to this packaging challenge is a big priority for us. We are working on a few different fronts to improve the environmental characteristics of the K-Cup system.”

Another issue is cost. The disposable K-Cups are about 75 cents a piece at the grocery store. That’s a lot more than it costs to brew a traditional cup of coffee.

One woman told us, “They are very expensive. I even shop at BJ’s and I usually check the price at BJ’s and I just find them to be expensive. I think you are better off buying the beans and grinding it yourself.”

But some people, however, find the convenience too easy to pass up. One woman observed, “I do think people like the convenience and the innovation of having their own little cup made.”

One option is to buy a reusable filter and pack it yourself each time. One woman told us she didn’t like that idea, that the attraction was how easy the throw away cups are to use.

  • Roy Norton

    I bought a Keurig last year. I tried 4 or 5 different coffees and it never made a decent cup. I packed it back up and returned it to the store.
    Plugged in my old Mr. Coffee 4 cup machine that I purchased a few years ago for $15.00. In 3 or 4 minutes I was enjoying a great cup of coffee.
    Save your money. Keruig is just another fad that will be replaced by some other “incredible” device a few years from now.

  • Tirza

    I love my kuerig. I always make two cups at a time so using the ‘drop in’ filter was inconvenient! New dunkin k-cups are awesome! All is right with the world. I do not drink water from water bottles but take my own from the tap and I recycle everything else I possiibly can so I don’t feel at all guilty about loving my k cups.

  • Rich Maltzman, PMP

    Nobody is asking any individuals to feel guilty. Enjoy the coffee. What we should be doing, though is to pressure businesses like Keurig to think more “long-term” and to have a specific plan as to how to move to a recyclable plastic. This is what we have been preaching for years on our site

  • John M.

    Trying to find a blend that dosen’t contain instant coffee used to flavor>.

  • timma

    ……..Somewhere………a tree is not getting a hug

  • brat

    I will pass on this one. It would just end up collecting dust same as my George Forman grill and my bread machine. Just another fad. I recently purchased a large stove top purcolator for camping and use it at home now ’cause it makes great coffee.

  • Nancy C.

    I’ve had my Keurig for two years and love it! I have two my K-Cup reuseable filter and fill both-twice, to fill a 24oz. cup-Twice! Buying K-cups would send me into the poor house! I will not throw that much in the trash! I will not go back to a regular coffee maker, eather!

  • mikey

    I actually like some of the blends available for it. And there is growing support from other suppliers. Yes, it’s expensive, but by changing vendors at our office, we cut the cost by about half.

    Keurig makes a multi-use container for the thing. A small module you can put your own loose coffee into. I picked mine up at Wal-Mart for about $20. BUT… Keurig INTENTIONALLY makes it’s commercial machines for businesses so that they will NOT accept the multi-use cartridge. It will only fit in the home models. Something they don’t tell you when you buy it.

  • judie

    This machine can be enviromentaly correct. . .Keruig has a small basket that can be bought for an extra 15.00 in my area and you buy your regular bag of coffee. . .it takes as much time to brew as if you had the k cups and cheeper than k cups. . .

    • Janice Melanson

      We tried that at work and no one wanted to clean the basket when they were done, and the next person was disgusted they had to in order to have coffee. It lasted about two days. Now I cringe when I make coffee at work.

  • Kim

    I use the k cups as seed starter pots during winter and i’m ready for spring to plant!!
    the filter inside makes perfect drainage…and i cut away the plastic and the roots r in the filter makes for a perfect root ball!!….and i put the plastic into the recycle bin.

    • emom

      Kim awesome idea, and the coffee grounds are great fertilizer, can you save the cups thru the winter or will they mold. My sister doesnt drink coffee but she has a garden. Also does the filter inside degrade after being planted or do you just peel it off the root ball.

  • emom

    I love the keruig coffee system, I can try different flavors of coffee and Teas and dont have to buy one bag of one flavor,, as for the recycling of the cups, please How hard is it to open them up take out the coffee grounds dump those into a seperate container then put the cups together for recycling..I am sure they can be recylced… Its just more conveint to toss them.. As for the cost lets be real, sure if you buy them they can cost any where from 50 cents to over a $1.25 a cup, But you get a choice of 2 or 3 size cups, lets compare it to that same size in the coffee shops,, Yup it cost far less than the shops, A small coffee in most small time coffee shops can cost $1.50 or more, Higher end coffee shops cost $2.30 , and yes coffee beans ground up at home is the cheapest way to brew coffee,, However, you open a bag and well locked into that bag till its done, coffee can go stale ,, and having multiple plavors open becomes a huge waste, so in the end the keruig cups are a great alternative to this and is less costly than any shops, Just open the cups and take out the grounds and put the cups in the recycling ..

  • web

    I like the old fashioned coffee maker because sometimes I just want to “top off” my coffee, add just a little…you can’t do that with a Keurig, it’s either a whole cup or nothing. So I won’t buy a Keurig.

  • Granrt

    I refill the kcups with 1oz. of the coffee that I like. I then make new cap with Press & Seal . The filters are very durable and I am able to reuse them many many times over. The piece of press & seal should be about 3″ X 3″. A regular roll of Press & Seal is 12″ wide. This saves a lot of mullah. This combined with Kim’s comment are a great way to recycle your kcups.

  • Frank Davis

    I’ve had a Keurig for over a year now and love it. I use tap water because I have a in-tank filter for the machine so I save money on not using bottled water in it. If you want to save money on the K-cups you can order them via Green Mountain or Keurig’s website. You get more cups per box at a cheaper price than in store. Sorry though you still have to get the DD K-cups at one of the shops. And if you really want to avoid the plastic there is a reusable cup that allows you to fill it with whatever coffee you want. Look for that near the machines at the major chain store (not at the grocery stores).

    • Frank Davis You can use this in place of the plastic & fill it with whatever coffee you want.

      • Andrew

        Problem with the My K-Cups (which I use) is that they leak out the top while it is brewing.

  • Rich Maltzman, PMP

    @emom, the point is that the cups ARE MADE FROM A NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTIC. They are NOT RECYCLABLE. So even if you *put* them in the recyling bin, they will end up in landfill. In fact, putting them in the recycling bin is probably worse, because the recycling location must waste their energy sorting out the non-recyclable K-cups (now numbering about 12 billion) and send them to the landfill, where there are now enough K-cups to circle the earth 1 and half times.

    We can’t blame individuals for using what is (otherwise) a great product, but we can raise awareness about the impact that companies have when they introduce a product like this whose steady-state operation is not sustainable.

    • emom

      Ok I get that However,, like so many other plastics that many communities dont recycle, for odd reasons,, what makes the K cups different in their material.,. I know there are different numbered plastics ,, maybe they need to use a number plastic that is recycleable ,, problem solved and otherwise solveable issue. And yes its a great coffee idea for many, which saves money in the long run.

  • Frank Davis

    It seems that anything that makes life easy or gets termed “good for you” get hit with some bad for the enviroment.
    We were told that drinking tap water was bad for you because of stuff in the systems. So we switch to bottled water but then those bottles end up in the landfills. So we switch to reuseable bottles. Then there is a chemical leech into the water because of the way the bottle is made. Then there are the filtering machines we buy that does nothing but makes the water taste even funnier than tap or the store bought water.
    I’m not saying don’t be eco-friendly but before we run down roads for planet friendly stuff likes make sure it isn’t going to damage us first.

    • web

      Frank, just one quick comment..we are usually told drinking tap water is good for you, not bad. It is monitored regularly by the gov’t, as opposed to bottled water that is non-regulated. But I agree that the more convenience items we want, the more damaging they do seem (to us and the environment). That’s why sometimes I think it’s better to get back to the basics.

  • Joe

    Again, my pendulum theory proves correct. You can equate any life issue to a pendulum. 50 years ago the environment was a non issue. people would dump their waste oil down a storm drain for crying out loud. Yea…… bad idea and, on many levels, a very irresponsible time for our country. So, we learned from our mistakes and made changes. The pendulum started swinging from one side to the other.

    However, instead of stopping in the middle it has swung full tilt the other way. In a few years it will be illegal to fart because of the gases emitted. Don’t laugh, they are trying to figure out something to do about cow farts. Think I’m kidding? Google cow gases affect ozone. The company released a statement saying they are working on a environmental solution to the packaging. They could just say go bleep yourself. But they didn’t so can we give them a chance to do a little trial and error?

    Or has the pendulum swung so far the other way that we think the CEO should be part of a public hanging on Boston common?

  • Jack

    600 jobs expected in New England from Keurig. I don’t think now is the time to run through the environmental hysteria

  • richpmp

    Folks, there are extremes of course. Let’s ignore them. Nobody wants a public hanging. And I’m sure that any sane person also doesn’t want 12 billion K-cups in landfills, either.

    So instead of a hanging, we want accountability and consideration of sustainability in the planning of the product. That is not too much to ask.

    Ask yourself this: if the K-Cups were recyclable, wouldn’t that just be better for everybody? Wouldn’t it be better for Keurig, owned by Green Mountain Coffee, a generally responsible, sustainable company? Don’t you think their CEO wants to saty true to their own corprate messaging? I give them that much credit.

    No public hangings needed.

    Just thinking and planning that goes beyond one quarter.

    • Joe

      Rich, we agree and that’s what I said. The above-mentioned CEO has produced a statement on their website saying they are aware of the concern and agree with said concern. They will now figure out a solution to the problem. When they were in the planning process of this product I’m sure production of the cup came up somewhere in the process. They needed a product to go to market with that was efficient, marketable and that worked. Well, they succeeded probably far beyond their most optimistic projections. It was a market success on every level. Except one; The material used in producing the cup. So back to the drawing board.

      Now they have a completely new marketing tool right in front of them. Producing and marketing a green k cup. If I was head of marketing I would be salivating at the new ad campaign which will promote the company as realizing the concern, fixing the problem and now moving forward as a green company.

      They can donate a portion of their profits to saving the spotted salamander. They can have a picture of a polar bear on the top of the k cups holding one of the coffee makers. It’s genius! The green crowd will be satisfied, salamanders and polar bears will be saved and I can have a dam cup of coffee!

  • web

    Richpmp, I whole-heartedly agree! Jack, we shouldn’t use the economy as an excuse to justify our actions if they are wrong (not that I’m saying Keurig is wrong..just using it as an example). If Keurig was pouring mercury in our drinking water but hired weekly, would that be an excuse? No. Let’s just say Keurig might also hire if they were to do things even more responsibly, more people might be needed to create a new product line. And I would argue that sometimes hysteria of some sort is needed to make change, otherwise, nothing much changes…and again, I’m not saying it is needed in this example.

  • Mal

    There is a much greener alternative to Keurig. Eldorado Coffee Company produces a similar product for office use that uses a biodegradable pod. They are also a lot cheaper per cup of coffee.

  • mikey

    “Problem with the My K-Cups (which I use) is that they leak out the top while it is brewing”

    There’s a seal kit that pops in and replaces the rubber on the part that comes down and pierces the top of the cup…

    • Grant

      Thats because you are not inserting the kcup properly or you are aver filling it which creates a bacflow. Whenyou reuse the kcup make sure that the pin in the bottom of the holder fits into the original hole at the bottom of the cup that was made the first time you used it.

  • Rich

    @ Joe: great commment, great humor, enterntaining post — enjoy your coffee, you deserve one!

    @emom: the plastic is not a numbered plastic because only recyclable plastics get those numbers. Keurig, because – to their credit – wants a quality product (fresh coffee), has not found (yet) a recyclable plastic that keeps the coffee fresh enough. You cannot just start stamping a number and the recycling symbol on the product if the plastic is not recyclable. That’s why there is no number on the cups.

    @everyone else: please visit to learn more about this crazy intersection of business, projects, and the environment. There is a lot of “meat” to this sustainability stuff, even if you think climate change is bunk, polar bears should all be terminated, and BP is a great environmental corporate citizen.

  • emom

    Rich I understnd the stamped number process,,,, trust me Its been a problem with many communities that DO NOT accept certain numbers,,, I have to wonder why that is,, one town will accept a large number of plastics that are numbered like 5 or so dffernet ones, where as another town or should say many of them ony accept about 3 different numbers,,, if they are all recyclable then take them all in all communities… also so many plastics keep food fresh and are simalr kinds of plastic,, have to wonder if they are looking at it all wrong… besides, keruig is not the only company that creates these k cups now… I would think some of them are looking into finding one that is far better with out changing the design of the machine much,, especially for those that already have one… I always thought many plastics that can not be turned into food containers are then turned into plastic storage containers and other items not food wise…

    • Al Contino

      For cryin’ out loud lady, the are not recyclable ! Why can’t you get that ? If you really cared about the environment you would stop using the machine until Keurig comes up with a green K-cup.

      • emom

        OH for pete sakes, get over it,, I am just saying gee … And I dont use one all the time,, so get over it.,, I agree they need to make a recyclable cup thats why I asked about it,, gee wiz.

  • Joe

    After the day I’m having I’m going to work on an Irish coffee maker. You put the recyclable cup in one side and a shot of jameson in the other. Close the lid, hit the button and wahhhlah….. Irish coffee in a minute.

    • Joe

      Hey, wait…….. that’s a really good idea! And its my idea! It’s on record and so aren’t are IP addresses so back off, Patten office here I come! :)

      • Joe


        You should really think before you type. Or at the least go to that Google thing and type in Patten office. It really helps people like yourself before putting your foot in your mouth.

        Here is the first paragraph on the “about us” page of The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO),

        The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the Executive branch “promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries.”

        Cyril, If you would like to visit the PATTEN OFFICE here are the directions.

        Take yellow or blue line to the King Street station in Alexandria;

        Follow the pedestrian tunnel under Duke St.
        The George Washington Masonic Memorial will be to your RIGHT, behind you, and the USPTO Headquarters in front of you.
        The Madison East and Madison West Buildings are located on Dulany St. about 2.5 blocks from the Duke Street pedestrian tunnel. You can identify them by the central glass Atrium that joins the East and West buildings.

        Anything else my little moron would like to know? Yawn…..

      • Cyril

        Patten office ???? Moron !!

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