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Convenience Of K-Cups Comes With A Cost

By Todd Gutner, WBZ-TV
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Keurig coffee machine with K-Cup. (File image)

Keurig coffee machine with K-Cup. (File image)

WBZ-TV's Todd Gutner Todd Gutner
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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.

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