SAU Buzz

K-cups: Convenient or catastrophic?

by Becca Herrmann
Posted on Feb 02, 2018

College kids across the country woke up Christmas morning to the ultimate stocking stuffer—Keurig cups.

Others headed to the tree to unwrap their new blue Keurig machine that was probably bought at a Black Friday sale for forty percent off.

The newest way to get a coffee fix has many benefits to students: convenience, consistency, and quickness. But it comes at a cost. It is estimated that 22,739,726 Keurig cups used every day, and they are filling landfills at an alarming rate.

SAU students, myself included, are part of the problem. I went through at least four boxes of Keurig cups since the beginning of the fall semester, and I’m sure there will be many more plastic cups in my garbage can this spring. I did the math on my use of Keurig cups last semester, and put together they stretch almost six feet.

In 2013, enough Keurig cups were used to circle the globe almost 11 times (8.3 billion K-cups). And in 2014, the number shot up to 9.8 billion cups, enough to circle Earth over 12 times.

These numbers are staggering. And, in a time when we need to be caring for the environment because our president won’t, they are especially important.

Even one of the Keurig inventors, John Sylvan, is speaking out about the growing problem.

“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” Sylvan told The Atlantic in 2015.

Other people have begun to speak out against the growing problem. A google search for “keurig waste statistics” turns up hundreds of articles on the problem.

Even the local community has seen an increase in the amount of keurig cups used and disposed of. Scott County Waste Commission said they’ve seen more and more “K-cups” go through their system, but could not comment on the exact number or percentage increased. Some St. Ambrose professors have been concerned about the topic as well.

Of course the solution is to reduce the amount that goes into the landfill in the first place,” St. Ambrose professor Bud Grant said. “This can be done by recycling, by using less packaging, by consuming less, etc., but it is often achieved by using incineration, which leads to all sorts of other issues, like 'heavy metals' in the air we breathe.”

There is no easy solution to this problem, but it is one that we must address, and soon, because landfills are becoming overwhelmed and keurig cups are one of the top culprits.

“When landfills are 'full,' they are supposed to be officially closed,” Grant said. “Very often, however, they are granted some kind of extension or allowance to keep operating because no one really wants a new landfill in their 'backyard' and because it is expensive. That's why mountains--or at least very large hills--are cropping up even in flat-lands like Iowa.”

So, next Christmas ask for the Keurig Reusable Filter, on sale at Target and other major chains for less than ten dollars. There are also biodegradable K-cups available from Walmart and Amazon, but those can be pricey. Still, do your part to cut back on the plastic waste generated by Keurig machines.