There’s no doubt about it: the single-serving coffee trend is steaming hot. A survey conducted last year found that nearly thirty percent of java drinkers are now brewing their coffee one cup at a time. And the most popular purveyor of these single-serving coffee makers is undoubtedly Keurig, with their K-Cup coffee machines.
Keurig: the King of Single-Serving K-Cup Coffee
It’s easy to see why Keurig Green Mountain is edging out its competitors. The company has wide distribution, an extremely diverse selection of beverages, and Kleenex-like brand recognition in its market.
The K-Cup coffee producer reportedly sold 9.8 billion of its small, plastic, single use K-Cups last year. That’s great news for the company and its investors, but environmental watchdogs have raised concerns about the sheer volume of material the company is indirectly producing.
K-Cup Waste: A Complex Issue
Taken separately, the components of a K-Cup coffee unit are all recyclable or compostable, at least in theory. But as a unit, they’re certainly not what you’d call environmentally
friendly. Individual users could take them apart and compost the grounds and recycle the foil lids, but how many of us would do that on a daily basis? After all, convenience is one of the main appeals of the K-Cups coffee system.
Keurig K-Cup Introduces Grounds to Grow On
Keurig is sensitive to its customers’ concerns, so they’ve launched a new initiative called “Grounds to Grow On.” Under this program, workplaces (and soon, consumers) can opt to send their used K-Cups of coffee back to the company, where they’re burned as fuel.
Company representatives admit that it’s a less than perfect solution, but it’s certainly better than all those coffee pods ending up in landfills.
2020 and Beyond: What Happens to the K-Cup Market?
So what does the future hold for Keurig Green Mountain, when it comes to sustainability for its k-cup coffee? The company has been working on coming up with a solution that will keep coffee fresh, without such a sizable environmental footprint.
Paper K-Cups were considered as a possible option, but the company’s R&D department found that they didn’t keep the coffee fresh long enough to make it to consumers’ mugs.
Keurig’s goal is to make all of its single-use beverage pods recyclable by 2020. Its Vue and K-Carafe pods are more environmentally friendly, and are accepted by its newer Keurig 2.0 machines, but the many owners of its older devices aren’t able to take advantage of these advances, which aren’t backwards-compatible.