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The Keurig-cup® Conundrum

Recently I stayed at an Airbnb house with family for a wedding in Canada. There were seven adults staying there, and we all are big coffee drinkers. The house provided a coffee maker and coffee, however it was a Keurig® machine and its accompanying single-serving K-cups®. Hmmm, we ke

pt that little machine going almost constantly for everyone to get their coffee fix each day!


While the group was annoyed having to take turns for each single-use K-cups®, they were all pretty environmentally conscious and were glad they were recyclable. Or so they thought, until I arrived to the house. As a long-time solid waste/recycling professional I informed them that;

  1. The recycling symbol on each little cup only identifies the type of plastic it’s made from, and does NOT imply that it’s actually recyclable.

  2. Local recycling programs vary a lot, and they may not accept all types of plastic.

  3. While some programs may accept some of the less-common items (and I want to emphasize the phrase “less-common”), because the markets for these may be less reliable, they have a higher chance of being discarded after being collected. The local logistics and economics will affect whether it’s actually recycled.

  4. If your recyclables go to a single-stream recycling center or Material Recovery Facility (MRF), anything smaller than approximately 2”-3” square for the ‘containers’, and smaller than 4” x 8” for ‘papers’ will fall through the sorting equipment and again will most likely not get recycled. Size does matter!

Here are some good articles that address this in more detail. Please ready them completely because often the pros and cons of the situation often are intertwined throughout the piece.


Thanks for reading,

Karin Sieg


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