Keurig Dr Pepper says all K-Cup pods now recyclable

The company’s K-Cup pods, which were once emblematic of single-use plastic waste, are now all able to be recycled.

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December 10, 2020

Keurig Dr Pepper, Plano, Texas, announced Dec. 8 that it has achieved one of its longstanding sustainability commitments in making all the K-Cup pods the company produces recyclable.  

The effort involved converting more than 100 manufacturing lines to produce the pods, now made from polypropylene (PP), or No. 5, plastic. In addition, new packaging for the recyclable K-Cup pods features a green recyclable flag as well as a How2Recycle label that clearly communicates recycling instructions to consumers.

Keurig Dr Pepper produces approximately 80 percent of the coffee pods sold at retail for use in Keurig brewers and, earlier this year, began shipping the new recyclable pods to retailers. The now are largely distributed on retail shelves.   

"It's an exciting day for Keurig Dr Pepper and our partners as we complete this multiyear journey that required intensive product development, significant capital investment and expansive industry engagement," Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer at Keurig Dr Pepper, says.

To ensure pods could be successfully recovered at material recovery facilities (MRFs), Keurig Dr Pepper pioneered testing using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology in 2016 to track tens of thousands of K-Cup pods in various MRFs across North America. Those tests demonstrated that K-Cup pods were able to successfully pass through the stream with other recyclables to be further sorted with containers, a finding which was further validated by the Association of Plastic Recyclers, Washington.

In addition to converting 100 percent of K-Cup pods to the new recyclable format, Keurig Dr Pepper says it has intensified its efforts to ensure that MRFs across the U.S. have the capability to recycle PP. Earlier this year, with a $10 million commitment, the company became a founding member and the largest funder of The Recycling Partnership's Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, a collaborative of 18 organizations dedicated to increasing the quantity and quality of polypropylene recycling in the U.S. 

"Designing recyclable coffee pods is just one important step in our journey to make the Keurig brewing system more sustainable. Our work continues to minimize our overall plastic footprint while we play a leadership role in cross-industry collaborations for critical recycling infrastructure improvements across the United States and Canada in support of a circular economy," Oxender says.

Keurig Dr Pepper is also a principal member of the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF’s) ReSource: Plastic activation hub, which seeks to quantify corporate impact and track company actions to reduce plastic waste.

"We developed ReSource: Plastic to help companies turn their plastic waste commitments into action, and that's exactly what Keurig Dr Pepper has done with today's announcement," Erin Simon, head of Plastic Waste and Business at the World Wildlife Fund, says. "Access to recyclable content is essential if we're going to build a larger plastic waste management system. Investing in polypropylene is a positive step toward building a system where materials can be successfully recovered."

Keurig Dr Pepper’s research and development teams are working on new sustainability innovations for Keurig brewers and pods. In  Canada and the U.S., the Keurig K-Mini and K-Mini Plus coffee makers are made with at least 20 percent and 30 percent postconsumer resin (PCR), respectively, and the new K-Supreme Plus brewer also contains at least 30 percent PCR content. The company plans to increase those percentages in those brewers in 2021 while expanding the use of PCR to more brewer models.