One European city banned K-cups—should the rest of us follow suit?


About 1 in 3 American homes have a pod-based coffee machine. From Keurig to Breville, coffee pods (or K-cups, as they are more commonly known) have changed the way that millions of Americans caffeinate themselves in the morning.

But, here’s the problem: All those K-cups are wreaking havoc on our environment. That is why Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, has just made the monumental decision to ban the use of K-cups in their government buildings.


The residents of Hamburg are devoted to “greening” their city. They famously converted a indestructible WW2 bunker into an energy center (EnergieBunker) complete with solar panels.

The city is also focused on sustainable architecture, and they have an ambitious plan to become a “car-free” city by 2034, thanks to public transportation and a focus on biking and walking. No wonder Hamburg won the prestigious European Green Capital Award in 2011.


Now, the German city is taking their green initiative even further by putting the kibosh on K-cups. Although they might seem small and insignificant, the reality is that we use (and toss) enough pods to circle the Earth 12 times over. (And that number was based on the number of K-cups buried in 2014 alone.) Wow…pretty alarming.

I know what you’re thinking: Well, can’t we just recycle them? The answer is no, at least not really. K-cups are made of a unique combination of plastic and aluminum, which most recycling plants cannot handle. Although the leading producer of K-cups, Keurig, promises to make their product 100 percent recyclable by 2020, critics are doubtful.

Let me clarify: The very FOUNDER of Keurig is doubtful that these pods can ever truly become recyclable.

“No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” John Sylvan, founder of Keurig and inventor of the K-cup, has said. He even confessed that he feels a little guilty for having created the pods to begin with.


I must admit I feel a little guilty myself. I use K-cups on a daily basis, and often times my cups of coffee wind up forgotten or half-consumed. Meanwhile, the pile of pods in my trash just gets bigger and bigger. I think I am ready to make a change to the way I caffienate each day. Besides, I kind of miss the sound of a coffee machine percolating.

What do you think? Is Hamburg on the right track? Are you going to keep using K-cups?

[h/t: Business Insider]

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About the Author
Bridget Sharkey
Bridget Sharkey is a freelance writer covering pop culture, beauty, food, health and nature. Visit Scripps News to see more of Bridget's work.

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