We were as excited as you when Keurig® started printing “recyclable” on their K-Cup® products. Finally, we can send plastic capsules to recycling centers rather than landfill! Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. It turns out that some recycling centers were not prepared for this announcement. And, may not have to proper equipment to process such a small, light piece of plastic. Luckily, there is another way to recycle K-Cup® pods.
You are asking the wrong question. You should be asking, does my local facility have the equipment to recycle K-Cup® pods? That applies to any material. For example, glass is highly recyclable. Yet, it is difficult, so some facilities do not do it.
Also, they need to sell the processed material. Plastic is formed into pellets to use as raw material for carpets, clothing, bottles, etc. The pellets are sold through a commodity system in which “cleaner” plastics have a higher value. By cleaner, we mean – not mixed. In 2020, Keurig® switched K-Cup® pods from #7 polycarbonate (mixed, low value) to #5 polypropylene. This is when they added the “recyclable” label to the boxes.
The takeaway – before you place, K-Cup® pods in your recycle bin, check with your municipality to see if they have the capability to recycle them.
K-Cup® capsules consist of four parts. To dispose of Keurig® pods properly, each part must be separated. Keurig® has added a peel-off label which makes it easy. The four parts of a K-Cup® pod are:
First, the filter and grounds are perfect for composting, and your garden will love them. The aluminum foil lid is recyclable, and any facility should welcome the material. But, in Cuyahoga County, the aluminum foil must be tightly balled into a 4-5 inch piece. Think soda can for this size and shape. You will need to accumulate the lids and ball them up inside a larger piece of used, clean foil for recycling. Lastly, the plastic capsule. You should confirm that your municipal recycling center can process the plastic capsule before placing them in your bin.
If your local recycling facility does not accept K-Cup® pods, you have other options thanks to Subaru. The best part is, the Subaru Loves the Earth program is free! Now, you can drop off your K-Cup® pods at a participating Subaru location. They have partnered with Terracycle, a company that specializes in capturing hard to recycle materials. According to their interactive map, there are several drop-off locations in Northeast Ohio including, Brunswick, Massillon, Cuyahoga Falls, Painesville, and Boardman. Too far to drive? You can still recycle your K-Cup® pods with Terracycle. You will just need to buy one of their Zero Waste boxes.
Unfortunately, Terracycle does not have a recycling option for Keurig® coffee makers. But, your county might. For example, Geauga County offers special drop-off days for kitchen appliances and other items. Your county might too – check their website. Best Buy, Home Depot, and Staples also offer special recycling programs periodically. Recycling K-Cup® pods may take a bit of research. We have come a long way. Two years ago, there were little to no options. Kudos to Keurig® for listening to their customer’s demands. And, three cheers to you for taking the extra steps for the planet!