When John Sylvan sold the K-Cup to Keurig Green Mountain for $50,000 in 1997, no one predicted that these pods would later account for $4.7 billion of the company’s revenue in 2014. Few could have known how popular K-Cups would become, considering one in three households now use a pod-based machine to make their morning cup of joe.
This growing demand has led to the disposal of massive amounts of non-recyclable plastics in landfills. Last year, there was enough trashed Keurig pods to circle the earth 10.5 times. However, since the company does not release the exact number of K-Cups sold, this number may be closer to 12.
K-Cup: Modern Day Frankenstein?
Perhaps it is unfair to compare the creator of the K-Cup to Frankenstein. However, it is difficult not to see the parallel between John Sylvan and Mary Shelley’s infamous scientist.
Recently, Sylvan revealed how he regrets creating the single-use coffee makers. He considers them too expensive versus simply brewing a pot of coffee. Sylvan notes the environmental impact they have as well. In an interview with The Atlantic, he said that he “sometimes feels bad for inventing it.”
Of course, Sylvan meant well when he invented the K-Cup. However, the K-Cup has become an environmental monster. It has induced a landfill nightmare where no one appears to be making any effort to wake up.
Four Walls of Unbreakable Plastic
Recognizing the growing environmental concern among their customers, Keurig Green Mountain claims they are working on a five-year plan to make a recyclable version of the coffee pods by 2020. However, Sylvan warns, “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable.” Made of four different layers of BPA-infused plastic, K-Cups are extremely difficult to recycle. And while the foil on top can be recycled, it is unlikely that the consumers who buy K-Cups for their convenience will also take the time to separate these two parts for proper disposal.
The Pod’s World Domination
The story only gets worse in recalling the deal Keurig and Coca-Cola made in February 2014. The two companies signed a ten-year contract, agreeing to work on the Keurig Cold project. The international presence of Coca-Cola will allow K-Cups to further spread their eco-destruction, and Coca-Cola will benefit from making their products available to consumers in pod form. Now would be the perfect time for real advances in making the K-Cups recyclable. Keurig’s five-year plan is not soon enough, considering 13 billion K-Cups are disposed of each year.
Change Made by Consumers
Sylvan claims to know of a way to make the K-Cup more environmentally friendly. However, the company will not listen to him. Instead, Keurig Green Mountain may only respond to their consumers. They cannot ignore the “Kill the K-Cup” video or petitions such as the one on killthekcup.org. The benefit of a market economy is the ability to make demands of companies with our dollar. Giving up all coffee pods is not required either; you can instead try alternatives like reusable pods or recyclable cups from companies such as San Francisco Bay.
Unlike Frankenstein, Sylvan should not spend years trying to destroy his ugly creation. Consumers need to voice their concerns so that changes can be made. Sylvan’s tale also shows the growing importance of following the precautionary principle. The current state of the earth requires that we no longer carelessly create but that we try to consider all of potential harm on the environment before releasing our invention on the world. Consumers need to do their research before actively supporting a modern day Frankenstein. Let’s face it, i’s easy enough to make your own cup of coffee instead!
What do think about the Keurig cups and their environmental impact? Tell us in the comments!