Should you, the average consumer, go for biodegradable K cups? Can a few customers making a change make a real difference? The answer to both these questions is yes. Biodegradable K cups are a sensible pick and even the small change that you bring tips the scale ever so slightly in the favor of more responsible use.
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To be specific, modern biodegradable K cups are essentially compostable K cups. While you could say that they mean the same thing, there are small differences involved. In a wider setting, the terms wouldn’t be interchangeable. However, where K cups are concerned, they pretty much mean the same thing – at least for current market conditions!
Anyways, here’s why you should make the switch:
1. The Plastic Mountain Of Regular K Cups
K cups are immensely popular. And by and large, they’re made from plastic. This has since resulted in a steady stream of these small plastic cups to landfills. This has, for all practical purposes, become a (figurative) mountain of plastic. The best way around it is to use biodegradable-k-cups.
But let’s do some quick number-crunching here. Based on 2015 numbers, it was estimated that there are enough K cups in the landfills to wrap the earth 11 times. Keurig (or Green Mountain Coffee Company), says they sold more than 10.5 billion K cups in 2015. And that’s an old tale by now. The number of K cups sold has grown leaps and bounds since then.
There are tons of other branded and off-brand K cups as well, including those from other popular companies that aren’t necessarily sold through Keurig. While concise numbers aren’t freely available (especially given the damning conclusions), it is easy to imagine they are way above our calculations.
Single-serve plastic pods are everywhere. And they continue to contribute massively to plastic waste. Even the inventor of K cups says he feels bad when he thinks of the environmental impact of his invention.
Given the popularity of these K cups, it makes all the sense to shift to a better, more sustainable option.
Did you say you’re moving to recyclable K cups? The picture isn’t rosy there either.
2. Most Recyclable K Cups Never Get Recycled
The entire point of consumers buying recyclable K cups is the belief that they are… well, recycled! Several consumers happily pay a premium for these “eco-conscious” K cups. Turns out, they aren’t a big hit with recycling facilities – assuming they reach there.
These small K cups are often too tiny to be properly sorted for recycling. Even if you, the customer, are doing everything expected to help with recycling, there’s still a chance the sorting at recycling plants will miss the K cups. The cups often fail to make the cut.
One of the ways around this is Keurig (and other companies) partnering with recycling plants to get things moving. The company gets used K cups from users through various programs and then puts them together for recycling. Theoretically, this is a great way to get things moving.
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But, there are more problems. Recycling plants aren’t exactly lining up to work with these recyclable K cups. These K cups usually employ #5 plastic. It is technically recyclable, but the product isn’t as useful as other, better quality plastics. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that better quality plastics and aluminum end up getting a higher preference for recycling.
Speaking of aluminum, many single-serve pod manufacturers are veering in that direction. Nespresso capsules, for example, are made from aluminum. Like Keurig, they too partner with recycling centers and other institutions to get pods from users for recycling.
However, Keurig is still the king of the game, and plastic pods way outnumber their aluminum counterparts. And that’s not to say that aluminum pods don’t present their own problems and challenges!
Another method of “recycling” is the use of incinerators. Whether it’s waste to energy or some other program, the basic idea is chucking the K cups into a fire. This isn’t close to being an ideal solution. Some would say it’s the equivalent of just redistributing the pollutants to the ground and the air.
3. You Vote With Your Wallet!
All said and done, K cups are part of a business offering. Sales, profits, and revenues are important numbers and they speak loudly. Even if they care for nothing else, all businesses do cater to their sales!
As a consumer shows a greater interest in biodegradable K cups – and the sales numbers back it up, it makes more sense for companies to change gears. With the massive revenues of the coffee business, finding a solution can really move if the consumers show interest.
Voting with your wallet is the surest way of making your voice heard. Growing interest from consumers in compostable and biodegradable pods has seen the number of offerings increase. More options are now available to users, and they’re no longer limited to some fringe “also available” category. Their popularity is unmistakable, and with growing user interest, it is reasonable to expect greater development.
What To Know About Biodegradable K Cups
As I said earlier, biodegradable and compostable are the same thing for K cups. The biodegradable K cups we use are in reality “compostable”. But there’s a caveat there as well. These aren’t home compostable – you can’t just chuck them in the compost bin at home.
All available biodegradable K cups at the moment require an industrial/commercial composting facility. If you have access to one of those, great. If not, then well, it isn’t as helpful as one would have hoped!
On a side note, there is another benefit to using biodegradable K cups. Since these K cups don’t employ a plastic body, they use their filter as the shell. Many manufacturers use this aspect to make a better/proper filter for use with your favorite single serve coffee maker. The idea is that better filters equal better coffee.
Concluding Remarks – You Can Make A Difference
Now that we’ve seen it all, the case for biodegradable K cups becomes much stronger. It’s a sensible pick and even a responsible one. Customers choosing the best K cups can substantially reduce their carbon footprint by picking a better option.
Single-use plastics going to landfills doesn’t do us any favors. Besides, the encouragement of biodegradable K cups can help with developing more sustainable solutions for single-serve coffee in the shape of compostable and biodegradable offerings.