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Kontroversy Surrounding K-Cups

Keurig promises a recyclable coffee pod by 2020.

| BY Kent McDill

The man who created K-Cups has apologized.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic magazine, John Sylvan apologized to the world for creating the Keurig single-serve coffeemaker which has added untold (but often estimated) trash to the world’s growing stockpile, and which has turned up the price of coffee consumption as well.

He did not apologize for changing the culture of coffee drinking in America from a socially accepted way to gather to an individualized moment of consumption.

Maybe he will get around to it.

The K-Cup controversy is growing as Sylvan’s invention sees untold growth. In 2014, almost 10 billion Green Mountain brand individual coffee pods were sold for use in Keurig machines. Those pods, by the way, are not recyclable, unless users want to take the time to completely disassemble it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Sylvan admitted in The Atlantic issue that he does not own a Keurig coffeemaker because “they’re kind of expensive to use.” Sylvan got out of the company in 1997, selling his share for just $50,000.

The Atlantic reported Keurig Green Mountain made $4.7 billion in revenue in 2014.

According to a recent report by the Associated Press, more than one in five U.S. households has at least one Keurig single-serve coffeemaker.

The company is responding now to calls about the environmental harm done by the mostly plastic pods.

“We’re not happy with where we are,’’ said Keurig Chief Sustainability Officer Monique Oxender to The Atlantic. “We have to get a solution, and we have to get it in place quickly.”

Oxender said the plastic pods are used because they do the best job of keeping the coffee inside fresh. But the company, which recently has partnered with Coca-Cola to expand the brand, said it will have a completely recyclable pod by 2020.

The Keurig/Coca-Cola partnership is working on a cold beverage maker.

While the role of coffee in America grew from a breakfast staple in the mid-20th century to today’s constant presence, it changed again when the Keurig was invented to brew and dispense coffee one cup at a time. Rather than grinding the beans, or measuring coffee scoops, the Keurig makes the matter of making your morning cup as easy as preparing popcorn (an experience that used to take a lot more time before the invention of the microwave oven).

 Based on the average price of Keurig brand pods, the cost of a pound of coffee is approximately $40. On the positive side, Keurig coffeemakers use less electricity than a standard coffee maker, and the K-cups use the coffee more efficiently, with much less grounds thrown away (or composted).

 The environment has paid a large toll for the convenience of single-serve coffee. Statistics vary, but one estimation is that in 2014 alone, there were enough discarded K-Cups to circle the earth at the equator more than 10 times if laid end-to-end.

The K-Cup controversy grew in late 2014 when the company came out with a new model that only uses its pods. Many other companies have produced single-serve coffee pods, and some of those companies provide pods that are recyclable. More than one dozen companies are suing Keurig over unfair practices.

 For those that want to know this, a pound of instant coffee costs less than $10 and produces more than 100 6-ounce cups of coffee.



About the Author


Kent McDill

kmcdill@spectrem.com

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.