Are they recyclable at all? can you pull them apart and recycle parts of them? Are there recyclable alternatives?

Many offices including mine are using these to brew coffee in the USA.

I personally use a Clever Dripper at work. Which I can pour hot water over steep and throw away the filter/coffee (all compostable). It is incredibly mess free and almost as easy as pushing the kurig machine button.

For those that don’t know, Clever steeps the coffee like a French press and then has release valve to drain the coffee through a coffee filter into your cup. This gives benefits of Pour over without standing around actually pouring for 5 minutes.

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    There are reusable k-cups but they are (obviously) less convenient than regular k-cups since you still have to fill them (and clean them afterwards)
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:43
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    Keurig says that it takes 60 seconds to brew a K-Cup coffee, the Clever Dripper says it takes 4 minutes and stirring twice (after 90 seconds and 4 minutes) to brew a coffee. It doesn't sound more convenient than just using a french press (plus it uses a paper filter which has to be recycled or composted, while the typical french press does not). The Aeropress claims to brew coffee in about 20 seconds (it too uses a paper filter, but it's much smaller than traditional coffee filters).
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:53
  • Indeed I forgot to mention the time difference. You could make the French press just as complicated if you read certain recipes. It is FAR easier to clean a clever than a French press which requires a sink. The difference is that I can do all of this at my desk without a sink. In any case I am trying to show that are alternatives that are quite convenient. Aeropress sounds very nice too. There are also reusable filters available for each.
    – Enjabain
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 21:36
  • Also, many people do not like French press because of the sediment. Any of these methods is a good alternative to k-kups if you love great coffee and don’t mind the extra steps.
    – Enjabain
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 21:46
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    You can, but you have to do it yourself, rather than dumping them. If you pop the top off you can extra (most of) the coffee grounds and compost them, then the plastic or metal container is no worse than any other mixed-materials item. Meaning that it's probably still "recycleable in theory" - your best bet is an all-plastic pod made of a recycleable plastic. If you must drink coffee, pods are still one of the most awful ways to do that. Coffee itself is problematic from a sustainability perspective.
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:12

5 Answers 5


The original K-Cups are made from plastic resin 7, the catch-all 'other' plastics category. This means that the precise composition of the plastic is known only to the manufacturer. Because of this, plastic resin 7 is hard to recycle and usually goes to landfills. A second problem is that the K-Cups consists of several materials that need to be recycled separately but cannot be separated easily (e.g. foil lid, plastic cup, filter, used coffee grounds).

So in short the answer is "No, K-Cups are not recyclable".

On their website Keurig confirms this:

We are very sensitive about the waste created by the K-Cup® packs and are investigating alternative materials. Finding a solution for this is a priority for us, and one we hope to have before long.

Keurig does have a slightly better system, the Vue capsules that can be recycled more easily, that is if your local waste processing facility recycles plastic resin 5 (Polypropylene).

However, according to this treehugger blog, all cups, even the onces that call themselves recyclable, usually end up on landfills because

The cups are then recyclable — in theory. The problem is the cups are too small to be captured in most recycling facilities where machinery separates objects by size and density

UPDATE August 25th 2016: Green Mountain, the producer of K-Cups, recently launched their first recyclable K-Cups. The new pods are made from polypropylene (plastic #5) and Green Mountain claims that the

new recyclable K-Cup® pods have been tested in real world recycling and recovery facilities

  • It's not recyclable but Canterbury Coffee (no affiliation) is selling a cup that is made of PLA plastic that will break down in industrial composting facilities. Only the filter isn't biodegradable yet.
    – THelper
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 8:28

General recycling typically won't recycle anything that isn't labeled as such, especially when it comes to synthetic materials like plastic. Even then some recycling labels require you to bring the material to special facilities to have recycled. In fact, only resin number 1 and 2 are common materials that will be picked up curbside.


Yes, there is a recyclable answer, it is called the iFill Cup, it is all polypropylene (PP, #5 plastic, all recyclable including the filter). The foil lid is also recyclable. It can be found at www.ifillcup.com, it is brand new, it was a HUGE hit at the recent Specialty Coffee Association show in Seattle.

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    Welcome to Sustainable Living! Are you affiliated to iFill Cup by any chance, or just a happy user? This site requires that people disclose any affiliation about products they promote, otherwise posts may be deleted as spam.
    – THelper
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:41

Even if they were, would it make a difference?

It's probably more sustainable to get your coffee from a coffee shop, in no small part because they have a proper espresso machine into which only coffee grounds go into and come out of. The 1 cup coffee makers are built for disposability and convenience. It's completely Keurig's intention that they're producing millions of little plastic bits that are going through consumers and straight into landfills. That kind of mentality doesn't need to be supported by people who want to live sustainably.


Check this link to this new K cup company that has developed a new technology to be able to recycle their K cups


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    Hello there steve Joe, and welcome. Could you write a little more about this recycling? We're trying to build awesome content here, not just links to content elsewhere.
    – 410 gone
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 18:19
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    Also I'm highly dubious about the recycling - sure it's doable to take apart every capsule by hand, but if you want to spend that much time for a cup of coffee, you don't by a machine like this. Do they take back their cups and recycle them themselves?
    – mart
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 8:43

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