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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Grainger

How to Be An Eco-Friendly Keurig Using Coffee Drinker; Convenience vs. Sustainability

As modern citizens, we strive to walk the path of least resistance. We want to find the most efficient route to obtaining our goal. In many cases, however, our most convenient option is not our most sustainable one. The trade-offs between convenience and sustainability are never more manifest than in how we choose to make a cup of coffee.

Every day, over 2 billion cups of coffee are poured worldwide, with domestic coffee consumption accounting for nearly half of these cups. Brewed using various methods that differ in convenience and sustainability, domestic coffee consumption in 2018 accounted for roughly 170 million tonnes of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.

This plastic waste comes as a result of single-use coffee capsules used in beverage brewing systems such as Keurig and Nespresso coffee machines. These machines are highly convenient to use but can be ever-so unsustainable and non-eco-friendly. In this article, we will examine how you, as an Eco-conscious Keurig user, can act to help balance the Keurig convenience/sustainability scale.

The Keurig Machine and the K-cup

Arguably the most time-saving method to brewing a hot cup of good coffee, Keurig machines are single-serve, all in one beverage brewing systems. A slogan on their website epitomizes their company mission; “Your coffee. Conveniently.”

Single-serve brewing systems work by the coffee drinker inserting a K-cup or coffee pod (a plastic capsule filled with coffee grinds) into the machine and pressing a button. Water stored in a reservoir is then pumped into heating chambers. This then filters through the K-cup, giving a high quality, convenient cup of coffee.

This system of coffee brewing is the preferred method for roughly 25% of all American homes. It is fast, simple, and consistently delivers an identical cup of coffee every time. Keurig machines remove any guesswork of manipulating grind size and measuring the amount of coffee in a serving. As such, Keurig users get a consistent cup of coffee very quickly.

But this is where the problem with single-use brewing systems like Keurig lies; for every single cup of coffee poured, there is a byproduct of a single pod. To date, tens of billions of non-reusable, non-recyclable plastic pods have been disposed of in landfills as a cost of the convenience of K-cups and single-serve brewing systems like Keurig and Nespresso.

Hard to Recycle

The problem with this coffee brewing system arises with the disposal of the K-cup or coffee pod.

Composed of a plastic cup, a paper filter and an aluminium lid, K-cups are notoriously difficult to recycle. Because they contain three separate components made of different materials, separating them into their individual parts on an industrial recycling scale is time-consuming and costly.

Secondly, due to their small size, even once separated into their respective materials, the plastic cups often fall through sorting grates and fail to be processed. As such, almost 60 billion coffee capsules a year generally are not recycled. These are either thrown into landfill or end up as unprocessed rubbish circulating in the earth’s oceans. Even the organic byproduct, coffee grounds used in the K-cups, takes significant resources to transport from the home to be dumped into landfill.

When placed on our convenience vs sustainability scale, it seems that the convenience factor of using a single-serve brewing system is the only factor in the equation. “To hell with mother nature and sustainability!” said the Keurig. But, happily, this does not have to be the case.

Eco-friendly Keurig Usage

Fortunately, coffee drinkers who value the simplicity and consistency offered by single-serve brewing systems, yet who are concerned by their poor sustainability can very quickly re-balance the scales. As we have discussed, the unsustainable aspect of Keurig brewing systems lies in the single-use coffee pod.

As an eco-friendly Keurig user, to tip our hypothetical scales in favour of sustainability, you need to use an infinitely reusable coffee pod. By choosing to purchase and use a reusable coffee pod, the only byproduct you will create by continuing to use a single-serve coffee machine is the coffee grinds.

You are still able to get an identical and consistent cup of coffee every time, just without the plastic, paper and aluminium waste.

Reusable coffee pods

Reusable coffee pods for use in conjunction with single-serve brewing systems have revolutionized the sustainable potential of these machines. Reusable pods are tiny cups which serve the exact same function as the single-use K-cups and other single-use coffee pods.

High-quality reusable pods are generally stainless steel and can be used to makes thousands of cups of coffee. Different brands produce different pods for use in a variety of different single-serve brewing systems. These pods hold a certain quantity of ground coffee. They are inserted into the Keurig machine to facilitate the filtration of heated water through the grounds, which produces a controlled amount of fresh coffee. They function just the same as a K-cup or standard plastic coffee pod.

Instead of discarding the pod after dispensing the coffee, the reusable pods are rinsed, refilled with fresh grounds, and ready to use for another cup. Zero waste is produced other than the spent coffee grounds.

You must pay attention to which reusable coffee pod you choose to use. As consumers, we must remind ourselves that the goal of large corporations such as Nespresso and Keurig is not sustainability; it is purely generating profit.

In an attempt to appear sustainable and environmentally friendly, these companies have released versions of so-called reusable coffee pods made of plastic, but they sell them in packs of six. By doing so, these companies are marketing a product which is built to deteriorate and need replacing, thus not balancing the convenience/sustainability scales. High quality, stainless steel K-cup and coffee pod alternatives are the only correct choice to be a genuinely eco-friendly Keurig user.

We highly recommend the Ekobrew K-cup as an alternative for Keurig machines, or the WayCup as an alternative for Nespresso single-serve machines. By using these alternative, high quality, guaranteed coffee pods, the only byproduct from your single-serve brewing system becomes the spent coffee grounds. Discover more about reusable coffee pods, or learn about uses for spent coffee grounds.


As modern citizens and consumers, we are continually balancing a scale between convenience and sustainability.

Now more than ever, are we aware of the impact that our choices have on our lives, the lives of others, and our planet. It can be easy for us to make decisions that make our existence more convenient instead of sustainable.

The global domestic coffee habit generated 170 million tonnes of plastic waste last year. With only a bit of awareness and reading, home coffee drinkers who use single-serve brewing systems such as Keurig and Nespresso can easily reduce this waste toward zero and help to re-balance their convenience/sustainability scale.

By using infinitely reusable coffee pod replacements, single-serve brewing systems produce zero non-reusable byproduct. Do this, and you become an eco-friendly Keurig user.

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