One-cup coffee pods like the Keurig K-cups have historically been challenging in terms of recyclability – and have come under fire by environmental groups for the mountains of plastic that is ending up in landfills. But Keurig Green Mountain has been on a two-pronged journey to make its pods more environmentally friendly and less open to criticism. The company is changing the composition of the plastic in its pods to make it more lucrative to recyclers, while engaging in research to discover how to ensure the single serve coffee pods actually make it through the recycling sorter. However, in terms of the company’s falling market share, the move may not make much of a difference, according to the Washington Post.
Part of the recycling problem is that, even when materials in the K-cup are recyclable, they are often not recycled by the consumer, and when they are, they tend to fall through the sortation equipment at recycling facilities and end up in landfills.
Keurig Green Mountain has said its goal is to ensure that 100% of its K-cup pods make it to the curbside for recycling by 2020, but in its latest sustainability report, released this week, it moved that timeline to 2018. To do this, the company is changing the composition of the pods so that the user will brew the coffee, peel the top, empty it and toss it in the recycling bin “in the same behavior they would do with a yogurt cup,” says Keurig chief sustainability officer Monique Oxender (via the Washington Post).
The company is shifting its K-cup pods from a multi-material makeup to polypropylene, according to Plastics News.
The move may or may not affect demand for the pods, which seems to have stabilized. “If it’s going to be easier to recycle K-cups, some consumers will care…,” says Pablo Zuanic, an analyst with Susquehanna International Group. “On the margin it’s nice, but I don’t think it’s going to move the needle.”