Too Much Trash from Coffee Pods


Americans love coffee, and love easy-to-use products, too. Combine coffee with easy-to-use packaging and it is estimated that one in three U.S. households currently has a pod-based coffee machine such as Keurig, Tassimo, Nespresso, or other models. That means a lot of coffee pods are bought, and they all need to be discarded. Although companies claim the pods are recyclable, they do not appear to be so. Most pods are manufactured from number 7 plastic, include aluminum in the packaging, and are quite small – meaning the pods are not easily recycled.

With sustainability in products and packaging becoming a more compelling topic in marketing, what should companies do? The K-cup inventor, John Sylvan, originally intended the product for use in offices. He left the company in 1997 and now estimates that the single-cup brewing products product 10 times more solid waste than a cup of coffee made in a more conventional drip machine. Sylvan has gone as far as stating that “I wouldn’t do it now…. The world has changed in 15 years.”

Consumers and advocacy groups are calling for solutions to the problem. Even the pod-manufacturers realize that an environmentally-sound approach is needed, vowing to make the pods recyclable by 2020.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the difference between legal issues and ethical issues.
  2. Poll students: How many have a Keurig or other pod-type of coffee maker? How do they dispose of the waste?
  3. Go to the Web site for “Kill the K-Cup”:
  4. View the mockumentary about pod invasion on the site.
  5. Also, view CBS video about how green the coffee pods are:

  1. Discuss ethical considerations for non-sustainable packaging.

Source:, CBS News, East Bay Express, other news sources

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