March 01, 2019

Keurig partners with Emterra to develop solution to K-Cup® pods recycling

Keurig partners with Emterra to develop solution to K-Cup(R) pods recycling

The introduction of single-serve coffee pods to the marketplace more than a decade ago fueled consumers’ love of coffee but caused much debate about what to do with the used pods. While the majority of pods went to garbage, many consumers chose to put them into recycling bins, even though they were not yet recyclable. Keurig Green Mountain (Keurig) recognized that the non-sustainability of the packaging needed to be addressed and set about to do something about it. At Emterra, they found a partner driven by the new world vision of paper products and packaging (PPP) sustainability and ready to help close the loop for single serve pods.

In a multi-year project, Keurig and Emterra developed and implemented studies in BC and Ontario to determine the recoverability of the polypropylene (PP) #5 plastic K-Cup® pod in various material recovery facilities (MRF); specifically, if the pod would make it to the container processing line and what impact they might have on the quality of other recovered PPP. Using radio frequency identification technology (RFID), the study tracked full pods, empty pods and crushed pods through Emterra’s MRFs.

The study showed:

  • on average 90% of the empty PP made it to the container line
  • less than 0.01% impact on paper quality, with minimal loss to glass
  • a recovery potential of up to 91% of incoming PP pods depending on the sortation

“Emterra is extremely proud and excited by the results of that study, which achieved the highest recovery attained by Keurig in all of its North America studies. We are also very pleased to be chosen by Keurig as a major Canadian partner to test the viability of the new recyclable PP K-Cup® pods. As a resource management company that is fully committed to sustainability and the principles of the circular economy, we applaud Keurig’s leadership and drive to find solutions to make its packaging, especially this small format, fully recoverable and recyclable,” said Paulina Leung, Emterra Group’s VP of Corporate Strategy and Business Development.

Keurig has started rolling out its new recyclable K-Cup® pods across Canada with full conversion to be completed by the end of 2018. The K-Cup® pods can be collected in community recycling programs that accept #5 PP plastics, estimated to be more than 90% of Canadian programs.

“As a company whose coffees are enjoyed by Canadians every day, Keurig has always been committed to making every cup matter by sourcing and making our products the right way, for the long-term. We wanted our recyclable K-Cup® pods to maintain the same high quality, great tasting coffee experience consumers always enjoyed from Keurig and ensure that the pods would actually get recycled. Working together with a trusted and engaged partner like Emterra has enabled us to utilize our products as a proxy for other small format plastics items and confirmed their strong recovery potential. Today, we are proud to share that our pods can easily travel from recycling bins at homes to recovery facilities to a useful second life as a new durable good. Now that’s brewing a better world!”, said Cynthia Shanks, Director, Communications and Sustainability at Keurig Canada.

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