Keurig introduced its patented K-Cup technology in 1998. The K-Cup, a self-contained brewing system for coffee, tea, hot chocolate and more, produces only one cup at a time, which some people may find wasteful. Keurig K-Cups can't be recycled as a whole unit due to the structure of the cup. While the company has committed to research ways that this can be remedied, alternatives can help you reduce the amount of K-Cup waste that ends up in the landfill.
K-Cups are made in three layers. The outer layer is a plastic designed to prevent air and moisture from penetrating the contents of the cup. On the inside of the cup, a small paper filter much like a traditional coffee filter is glued around the edges of the cup. Inside the filter sits the coffee grounds or drink mix. An aluminum foil lid covers the top of the K-Cup, which seals in the freshness of the product.
Parts to Recycle
Only two parts of the K-Cup can be recycled, and they must be separated from each other before being placed in the recycling bin. The foil lid can be pulled off and placed with aluminum recyclables. The filter inside is made of paper and can be recycled with paper products. To remove the paper filter, first remove the K-Cup lid and then pull on the side of the filter until the filter begins to separate from the plastic shell. Work your way around the filter until the paper pulls free.
To recycle any part of a K-Cup, remove as many food particles as possible. Empty the filter of coffee grounds or other food particles and rinse the filter under running cold water. Allowing food to stick to the filter will contaminate the paper recyclables. The plastic outer shell of the K-cup isn't rated for recycling and therefore shouldn't be put with plastic recyclables.
Reducing K-Cup Waste
Keurig produces an option for people who want to reduce the amount of waste that their K-Cup machine produces. The K-Cup reusable filter allows you to fill a K-Cup filter with your own coffee grounds. Once the coffee is brewed, spoon out the coffee grounds and rinse out the filter for reuse. This option has the advantage of reducing the amount of waste that your machine produces, but it slows down the Keurig brewing process.
Heath Robert has been a professional writer since 2001. Covering news, politics and local communities, he has worked for daily newspapers across Colorado, including the "Columbine Courier" and the "Colorado Statesman." Robert holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and political science.