Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Things I hate: Coffee K-cups

[Picture: Herb Swanson for The New York Times]
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but Gawker and The New York Times beat me to it. We have these things at my office- I bet you do too. And now they are very popular for home use as well. Pardon me for being a coffee snob, but they taste AWFUL. Plus, it is a newly created stream of sheer plastic waste. Therefore, they are things I hate. To review, Things I Hate generally:

- are made of plastic
- are meant to be used once and tossed away
- are not in any way recyclable
- appeal to people's vanity and desire for instant gratification
- strive to create a need where there was none before
- are recently created streams of pure waste

How long till we see these things stuck in the gullet of a baby albatross on Midway?

A couple choice quotes from the Times and Gawker- but go read them, too!

The Times:
More than 80 percent of Green Mountain’s $803 million in sales last year came from nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, single-use coffee pods and their brewing systems. This year, the company expects to sell nearly three billion K-Cups, the plastic and tinfoil pods that are made to be thrown away — filter, grounds and all — after one use.
Michael Dupee, Green Mountain's vice president for corporate social responsibility, said some customers did not like to see the waste. "Consumers see the waste stream," Mr. Dupee said, "and they compare it to what they had done before, and they have a perception that there is a problem."

I'm no "LEED certified environmental consultant" or "person with a grasp of basic science," but it seems to me that brewing coffee one cup at a time via disposable plastic "K-cups" is a mite wasteful. Well, that's just "consumer perception."...Silly consumers, always perceiving things.


Juli said...

Argh! This chaps my hide: "Now Green Mountain and its rivals are beginning to wrestle with the waste issue and searching for ways to make the packaging greener."

BEGINNING??? Plastic waste was already a huge problem before these things went on the market!! What, they figure they'll make a mint before the public starts kicking back and then say 'Oops, we didn't think about the pollution. Who knew?'. Holy cats, this frustrates me.

The Green Cat said...

My office is not particularly "green" but when we were shopping for a new coffee maker, the office manager put out a survey and asked folks how they would feel about one of these pod systems. I was pretty vocal about the waste and voted no. I guess enough other people also voted no since we have a traditional coffee maker still!

Juli said...

Yay, your office, Cat!

Selwa said...

I can't stand the K-Cups either. The coffee just isn't as good. (I guess you could call me a coffee snob too...). I actually hadn't even thought about the plastic waste, but now that you bring it up, it makes the whole scheme even worse.

My future mother-in-law uses these. Her daughter had a K-Cup coffee maker as well and was going to give it to my fiance and I, since he doesn't drink coffee. The argument is that not as much coffee is wasted. True, but look what you're getting in return for coffee and water conservation - tons of plastic waste. That obviously has a much bigger impact on the environment. I hadn't even thought about it until reading your blog. I'd much rather throw away coffee than plastic. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Juli said...

Another quote: "Green Mountain, he said, has also commissioned a life-cycle analysis to understand the environmental costs of the K-Cups. Though he would not discuss details of the analysis, pending a third-party review, he did say the study found that most of the impacts occur where the packaging is produced, not where the waste is disposed."

This sets off alarm bells. We only worry about the waste we see, and should be more concerned about what we don't. The documentary "Tapped" has a clip about what happens on the production side of plastic: