K Cups: Does The K Stand For Are You KIDDING Me?

This is one post where I actually expect to get some hate mail, because I’m about to spew some hate myself.

I hate K cups. I hate the IDEA of K cups. I hate that they seem to be charming our convenience-hungry society backward in the ecological march, just when I thought we were starting to make some progress.

For those of you who don’t know–bless your hearts–the K stands for Keurig, the owner of the Green Mountain Coffee Company, based in Vermont. The actual cup contains  a single serving of YOUR CHOICE of coffee, or tea, or cocoa, with YOUR CHOICE of flavoring, price range, or political correctness. You stick it into a machine, press a button, and the contents gets flushed with steaming hot water, giving you YOUR CHOICE of delicious hot drink without having to argue with your office mates, or roommates, or just plain old mate, about what to brew.

And K cups are made of plastic. So every time you have that specially-made, personalized cuppa whatever, you create a miniature yogurt container of garbage. Except that yogurt containers are recyclable. According to Mother Jones, only 5 percent of K cups are currently made of recyclable plastic, but even that plastic has to be separated from its aluminum lid, and from the wet grounds within. What are the chances THAT cup will ever actually stay out of a landfill?

(Orig. image courtesy wikimedia)

(Orig. image courtesy wikimedia)

I have three concerns here. One is obvious: the increased trash.According to Mother Jones,

 Journalist Murray Carpenter estimates in his new book, Caffeinated, that a row of all the K-Cups produced in 2011 would circle the globe more than six times. To update that analogy: In 2013, Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. If Green Mountain aims to have “a Keurig System on every counter,” as the company states in its latest annual report, that’s a hell of a lot of little cups.

The second one is the creep of thoughtlessness these little cups-o-convenience represent. For a busy office, yeah, I get it. No more fights over who let the coffee pot sit there and burn. No more horrible instant. (I’m a tea drinker myself, but I do “get” the gourmet coffee thing.)

But families? Couples? Individuals? Day after day, creating piles of unnecessary plastic trash? Really, people?

For tea, even! A little plastic cup instead of a tea bag?? REALLY?

(Orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

(Orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

I also hate that this Vermont-based company–Vermont, for Pete’s sake!–trades off that P.C. “Green Mountain” name to lure and lull folks into getting comfy with a product that is anything BUT green.

But hey. It’s YOUR CHOICE.

OK. I’ve ranted enough. Let me hear it, people. Can anyone convince me of the value this insidious device? (Humph. Just try. )


11 thoughts on “K Cups: Does The K Stand For Are You KIDDING Me?

  1. My husband, the Master Gardener, opens up all the little cups and removes the grounds for his compost heap. Hadn’t thought about whether or not the empty cups are recyclable. Will check it out.

    • Good for him! Wish more folks did that. And the Green Mt. company does say they are going to be developing some recyclable alternatives, which other companies have already started to offer.

  2. I agree with you entirely. I don’t think they’re going to go away, so the best we can do is lobby for more recyclable materials and a design that makes it easier to dump the grounds.

  3. Right on, Gretchen! Along with Leslie’s suggestion that we lobby for more recyclable materials, I’d add we also can put our purchasing power to use. Don’t buy K-Cups, oppose the purchase of K-Cups if your workplace wants to buy them, and educate others with the information Gretchen posted. I also wonder about: the quality of the coffee/tea/cocoa being used (I sampled a cup of joe made with one of the K-Cups, and it tasted like crap); whether the coffee/tea/cocoa is fair trade (i.e. the growers are paid a decent rate); and if there are any health concerns about steaming water going through plastic. Frankly, aside from convenience (and really, how much time- and energy-saving are we talking about?), I can’t see any reason to use this product.

    Okay, I feel better now. Think I’ll grind some fair trade, locally-roasted coffee beans and brew another cup with a filter and cone.

  4. I’m totally upset by this post because I have a pile of discarded k cups and now I feel guilty!! 😪 BUT you’re so right. I was actually thinking this very thing this weekend. And here’s his shameful admission-I own a reusable k cup. You’ve given me the extra dose of guilt I needed to quit 👍

    • Gosh, I was not trying to make anyone feel bad! But…maybe I was after all, huh? That’s the thing about being judgmental. Might as well own it. 🙂 But I am glad you are thinking about it! Thanks for the comment!

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