The company says they plan to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020.
Non-Recyclable Keurig Coffee Pods Come Under Fire--And Continue To Sell
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty

UPDATE: The interview quoted below is from a 2015 article, and Keurig says that there has been “significant progress in our goal to deliver recyclable K-Cup pods since then.” Most notably, they have introduced pods made with polypropylene #5 plastic, which the company notes is “widely recyclable curbside throughout North America.” These are now the only K-Cups sold in Canada and they’ve begun introducing them in the United States. Keurig maintains that they are “on track for our goal of making 100% of all K-Cup pods we produce recyclable by the end of 2020.”

The founder of Keurig coffee machines is opening up about how the brand has transformed the coffee world — and the negative effects it could have on the environment.

John Sylvan, who sold his share of the company in 1997, says he doesn’t even own a machine himself.

“They’re kind of expensive to use,” he told The Atlantic.

According to the article, nearly one in three Americans have a pod-based coffee machine, and in 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that “if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times.”

Although many companies are taking initiatives to reduce waste by eliminating the option of using a straw, K-Cups have yet to be made in such a way that they can be recycled.

After Keurig was acquired by Green Mountain in 2006, the company pledged to make recyclable K-Cups by year 2020. But Sylvan disagrees: “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” he says. “The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers.”

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“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” Sylvan says about creating the machines.

The only way to recycle a cup is to disassemble it into paper, plastic and metal components, according to Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer.

People are now signing a petition on to help bring more awareness to the growing waste produced by K-Cups.

“We’re not asking the manufacturer to change. We’re demanding governments kill the K-Cup” the site says. “Cities like Hamburg, Germany have already done it. Other places are already banning plastic straws and bags. Why not non-compostable K-Cups? Our voices and actions are the most powerful weapons we have. Demand change. Sign our petition and join the fight to Kill the K-Cup.”