Kona Coffee

Eco-Friendly K Cups

One of the biggest concerns that I had when moving to a single cup brewer about 10 months ago was the amount of waste generated by the K Cups. I am a big recycler and it bothered me  for our household to be tossing out about 6 to 8 of these little plastic pods each day – even more when we have guests.

I’ve seen some data that claims the more than 5 billion K Cups were sold, used and then discarded by US customers last year.  Yikes.

For a while I tried the reusable filters filled with my favorite roast from Peet’s Coffee, but washing it out multiple times a day got to be a drag. I also felt that washing it out somewhat defeated the ease of use and convenience of having the single cup brewer. Still, I constantly felt a twinge of guilt over my contribution to the Earth’s ever-growing trash pile.

On a recent trip to Costco I noticed a brand of K Cups  that I hadn’t seen before that claimed to have less plastic and be more eco-friendly.  San Francisco Bay is now making a variety of roasts that come in individual mesh-like pouches that work in my Cuisinart/Keurig brewer. The company calls them One-Cups.  While these are not technically “K Cups” I believe that is a registered trademark of Keurig, I’m using the term as a generic  in the same way people often say Kleenex when referring to the other brands of facial tissues.

The price was in-line with the other K Cups available at Costco, so I bought the ones from San Francisco Bay coffee. The coffee was good (I purchased the French Roast), but not as good as the Tully’s Kona, which is my favorite. However, I’m willing to do a little (just a little) compromising until other companies get on board with more environmentally friendly packaging.

It appears that Keurig acknowledges the issue ad is working on a solution. According to Keurig’s website, “reducing the environmental impact of our packaging materials and brewing systems is a top priority for Keurig. It is a challenge to create a portion pack that is recyclable and delivers an extraordinary cup of coffee; however, Keurig is actively working to meet this challenge head on.”

The K-Cup package is made up of three main elements — the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. The polyethylene coating of the foil – as well as the process of heat-sealing the various elements – makes recycling difficult.  The portion pack composition prevents oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee. Without the barrier the packaging materials provide, we could not maintain quality or freshness,” according to Keurig.

But at least the company continues to work on the problem.  I hope others are following suit as the number of K Cups sold is sure to continue to rise.

If you know about any other roasters that provide more-eco-friendly single cups, let me know.


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