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jca's avatar

Why is the Keurig coffee maker so popular when one of our goals should be to use less plastic?

Asked by jca (35979points) September 26th, 2010

The Keurig coffee maker uses individual plastic cups which each make a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or other drinks. I think the size of the individual plastic cups are small enough that a lot of people don’t bother recycling them. Why would such a product be popular when we are supposed to be trying to use less plastic products?

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12 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Because we’re supposed to be using less plastic. That doesn’t mean it’s a personal goal for every person. We’re supposed to work out, eat healthier, go to the doctor on time, take vitamins, get regular maintenance on our cars, live within our means, not do coke, etc. But at the end of the day, most people would rather watch half an hour of tv than work out for half an hour.

Also, plastic isn’t really promoted as part of the global warming/foreign oil interests thing. People might carpool every now and again, they’ll try to recycle the newspaper, but tell them that they can’t have their precious plastic and the Green Movement will go down in flames overnight. Hell, I didn’t know until a month ago that plastic came from petroleum.

wilma's avatar

Because drinking coffee and having the cool new coffee gadget is currently cool.
Being “green” is also currently cool, but for some people, only if it suits at the moment.
I am not saying that everyone who tries to be environmentally conservative or drinks coffee is a hypocrite, just some of them

cockswain's avatar

I’m so with you on this one, @jca. We tend to showcase our green efforts where I work, but then we got one of those things and we blow through those plastic cups at ridiculous speeds. I’m as guilty as any of them, but have no excuse. I try to be environmentally conscious, but I’m a disgusting hypocrite in this regard. I should bring a mini french press and grinder to work.

Thanks for the guilt trip.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

You aren’t supposed to recycle anything that hasn’t been rinsed out first. So those little cups need to be rinsed before being dumped in the recycle bin. Most people will recycle the plastic bottle that Tums came in, but not the sour cream container because it’s not convenient.

BarnacleBill's avatar

You can reuse those little plastic things. K-Kaps

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Another reason why it’s so popular: Tons of really yummy choices built right in. Most offices without it have one kind of coffee – maybe a decaf, too, but certainly not the hazelnut, vanilla, Irish creme kind of choices – a couple of Swiss Miss packets that’ll be gone by the end of the week and never replenished, and some Lipton (much less awesome than the better quality that comes with this coffee maker in a variety of yummy flavors). It’s like having a gourmet coffee/tea shop right in the break room!

lillycoyote's avatar

You can buy reusable insert for the Keurig coffee makers (they sell them at Bed, Bath and Beyond too) so there is not so much waste but I have no idea how many people actually use those instead of the disposables.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@lillycoyote Probably not a lot. I have a few of the travel coffee containers (that always have metal inside so you can’t microwave them…), but I always leave them in my car and forget to bring them in, so I end up not using them. I’m trying to break that habit.

Haleth's avatar

Great question. How is Keurig coffee? Because the premise seems to me like it’s individual packs of instant coffee, and you’re stuck only using that brand if you want to use the machine… no thanks.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Haleth You buy the K-cups, and they’re filled with regular coffee grinds. It then brews one cups worth of coffee, and pours it into your styrofoam cup.
There are over 200 varieties to choose from. It’s not Keurig brand, it’s different brands and their various lines in K-cup packaging. There’s light, medium, dark, extra bold dark roast, flavored, extra bold flavored, dark roast flavored, medium flavored, light flavored, decaf, black tea, herbal tea, green tea, white tea, iced tea, and hot chocolate. They use Caribou, Green Mountain, Timothy’s, Ghirardelli, Celestial Seasonings, Twinings, Bigelow, Gloria Jeans, Van Houtte, Tully’s, Newman’s, Emeril’s, Coffee People, etc. So if you want, say, Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea or Van Houtte’s Spiced Myan Chocolate coffee or Green Mountain’s Sumatran Reserve Extra Bold coffee, you can have it.

wilma's avatar

I love good coffee and have had Keurig coffees. I enjoyed it very much. The reusable lid sounds like a step in the right direction.
@papayalily why would you use a styrofoam cup? Can’t you use a regular mug?

robmandu's avatar

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is the parent company of the Keurig brand. They’re famous for their environmental, organic, and fair-trade initiatives.

They explain the use of their plastic K-Cup packaging:


…this packaging approach prevents oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee. Without the barrier the packaging materials provide, we could not maintain the quality and freshness of the coffee, which means that all the resources and effort put into growing and roasting great coffee would be wasted. Finding a more environmentally-friendly approach to this packaging challenge is a big priority for us. We are working on a few different fronts to improve the environmental characteristics of the K-CupĀ® system, as well as to mitigate its impact.

Their statement goes on to explain at a high level how they’re working to improve their packaging.

I don’t know about you… but it seems to me that they offer a unique product at an affordable price. If you trust GMCR to faithfully pursue their better packaging promise, then you might consider supporting them while keeping an eye out for any competitors that may be able to deliver on such promise faster.

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