The K-cup started as an OFFICE coffee solution. I brought the first Keurig brewing system into my company through one of their original suppliers in 2003 because I could only rely on myself, and a small inner circle of trusted colleagues to make a decent pot – I got tired of giving the “Mrs. Olsen-on-steroids” lecture on how to properly brew…Then there is the waste factor. It’s 3:30, you want a cup, you have to make a whole pot, and then throw out 80% of it when you leave because there were no other takers. This of course, is an insult to Juan Valdez, who is picking all those beans by hand.
The K-cup was a big hit…now even Harry from Sales could brew a decent cup, (although I doubt he could tell the difference.) It was novel and new. It was a morale booster, “Hey this company really CARES about us…!” Of course, we saw the benefit of increased productivity, and less fire hazard, i.e., no pots on the hot burner all weekend. Less pilferage (at the time) with the K-cups because nobody had a machine at home. (This factor, of course, contributed to the K-cups early growth in the home market.)
The only guy that had a problem with it was Jerry from the Art Department. “It’s not recyclable…” he whined. What a buzz-kill. We paused to reflect a moment on huge landfills filled with plastic K-cup sarcophagi, their spent contents preserved for generations to come. There was only one way to respond. “NO K-CUPS for YOU!” we screamed in our best Soup Nazi voices.
Today we should be screaming for Green Mountain to offer biodegradable or recyclable K-cups. The reason they are moving so slowly is P-R-O-F-I-T. The K-cup itself could be made from coated cardboard, like a milk carton. The filter could be made from corn-based fibers, like some specialty teabags now on the market. Although the K-cups are filled with nitrogen, a mostly-cardboard K-cup would most likely require an earlier expiration date. (But that would be a GOOD thing.) There are recyclable plastics that would work if they’d make the contents easier to scoop out. Of course all this would cost more. A lot more. Green Mountain would have to take less of a margin, or jack up prices so that folks would begin to notice the scalping they are taking for convenience AND conscience. If you’ve tracked Green Mountain stock the last couple of years, you’ll realize what’s driving their decision-making. I am sure a viral campaign threatening a boycott might move them more quickly. But sadly, does anyone really care? (Millennials care less about environmental issues than Gen X-ers or Baby Boomers. (The just want a job to pay off their college loans.)
At the very least, it might give the Average Joe another chance to pause and reflect a moment, just like he does before tossing a double-handful of size D alkaline batteries in the trash.