K-Cup® Recyclability FAQ's

Here are some of the answers to questions we hear most often:

  • Why did you wait this long before launching recyclable K-Cup® pods? Why has it taken so long?

    • We wanted to make sure that our pods were not only recyclable, but also recycled. That is why we partnered with different actors in the industry, particularly recyclers, to develop a solution that really works.
    • We had to conduct numerous tests to design a pod that would be easily recovered and recycled. And we’re confident that it will be!
    • In addition, we had to ensure the recyclable K-Cup® pod maintained the same high quality, great tasting coffee experience while meeting the unique brewing requirements of the Keurig® brewing systems. The pods must:
      • keep coffee fresh before brewing by creating oxygen and moisture barriers;
      • withstand the heat and pressure during brewing;
      • be easily punctured with a needle as part of the brewing process.
    • We therefore chose polypropylene #5 plastic because it meets these criteria and is accepted for recycling in a majority of municipal recycling programs.
    • Finally, we had to make changes to each of our production lines to adapt to the new pod format.
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  • How will I know if a particular K-Cup® pod is recyclable?

    The recyclable K-Cup® pods are easily identifiable by the “#5” recycling symbol on the bottom of the pod. So all you need to do is turn it upside down!

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  • What kind of plastic is the recyclable K-Cup® pod made of? How is this different from the non-recyclable version?

    • The recyclable K-Cup® pods are made of polypropylene, or #5 plastic, considered a high-value material by reclaimers which we believe increases the likelihood of our pods actually being recycled.
    • Once recycled, the K-Cup® pods can be transformed into a wide variety of consumer products, such as kids’ toys, automotive parts, storage bins, outdoor furniture, construction material, etc.
    • The cup portion of our original K-Cup® pods is a multilayered plastic, making it #7.
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  • Why are you pursuing a recyclable K-Cup® pod over a compostable K-Cup® pod? What are the comparative advantages of the “recyclable” option?

    We are making K-Cup® pods recyclable rather than compostable because we believe recyclability is a better option for our consumers at this time. There are two primary reasons why:

    • We haven’t yet found a biodegradable or compostable material that maintains the quality of the coffee you know and love.
    • Most consumers in Canada (98%) have access to recycling but only 1% have access to industrial composting facilities that accept bioplastics. Therefore, most compostable products currently in the marketplace don’t degrade in home settings and require sophisticated facilities which are not common across Canada.
      • This means the majority of “compostable” pods is going to landfill, increasing the amount of waste. Additionally, landfills suspend decomposition by creating the effect of a large Ziploc® container around the contents of the landfill. “Compostable” pods therefore do not degrade.
      • “Compostable” pods don’t degrade in domestic composting systems. In fact, they can contaminate the compost made at home. They do not degrade in municipal composting facilities either, which are focused on organic domestic waste (food scraps and green waste).
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  • Are you considering introducing a biodegradable or compostable pod in the future?

    • Today, recyclability seems to us as the most accessible and effective solution to make sure our pods can find a second life.
    • We are constantly innovating to ensure continuous improvement of our pods from a sustainability standpoint, and we are carefully monitoring material and design developments, as well as progress regarding composting. As access to and recovery rates for compostable materials increases, we will be able to offer those solutions to consumers.
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  • K-Cup® pods are bad for the environment, and recycling them doesn’t fix that. Why are you contributing to so much waste?

    • Consumers enjoy the convenience and quality of single-serve products like K-Cup® pods – that’s what has made them so popular.
    • In many instances, depending on usage, a Keurig hot system can actually be more resource efficient than traditional potbrewing coffee makers, particularly when you factor in the water and coffee savings that comes with producing only what you’ll consume.
    • Plastic is integral to many consumer products as well as durable goods, and we believe in the value and benefit of a circular economy where reuse of materials reduces the need to create new materials. We believe our work to improve the recovery rate of small plastic items can increase the volume of recycled materials that can find a second life as durable goods.
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  • In practice, how do we recycle the new K-Cup® pods?

    Recycling them is very simple and can be done in three easy steps: Peel, Empty, Recycle

    • Peel the foil lid: once the pod is cool, starting at the puncture, peel and dispose of the lid.
      • If fragments of aluminum remain on the pod, this will not affect recycling.
      • The lid could also be recycled in theory, but it’s too small to be captured by most equipment in recovery facilities.
    • Empty: compost or discard the coffee grounds. The filter can remain; it won’t affect the recycling process.
    • Recycle: place the empty pod in the recycling bin alongside other recyclable materials.
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