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Coffee Machine Maker In Hot Water Over Plastic Cups

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Environmentalists are saying that a popular coffee machine comes with an additional cost.

Coffee machine maker Keurig promises a single-cup serving of piping hot coffee in just minutes. They offer a full selection of K-Cup varieties for use with the single-serving machines, and major coffee suppliers like Duncan Donuts are now rolling out their own K-Cup offerings. A quick glance at Sunday’s circulars — with Keurig machines on the front covers — is another great indication of just how popular this trend is becoming.

Customers love the convenience of brewing a fresh cup of coffee every single time. But each of those cups of coffee are brewed in a small disposable plastic cup, and that is troubling to environmentalists like Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

“Our concern is that they are not recyclable,” Luppi said. “That means they end up in the landfills and incinerators, and impact our health. The emissions end up in the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

With the number of cups now being tossed into the trash reaching into the billions, a lot of plastic is not being recycled.

“It’s hard to recycle because of the multiple materials,” explained Luppi. First, there is the plastic cup. Then, there is an aluminum foil top that keeps the coffee fresh inside of the K-Cup. Also inside of the K-Cup is a separate filter. “It’s also typically too small to be recycled,” Luppi said. “The trend is that larger materials are accepted typically in recycling programs.”

Keurig has posted a statement about the environmental issue on the company’s website. “Finding a more environmentally-friendly approach to this packaging challenge is a big priority for us,” Keurig’s online statement reads. “We are working on a few different fronts to improve the environmental characteristics of the K-Cup system.”

Even a typical pot of coffee — and its paper filter — create some waste. But environmentally conscious gardeners can use the grounds in compost.

Meanwhile, there are a few products available on the market which can help consumers recycle their K-Cups (for example, My K-Cup and My-Kap). These products involve reusable filters that coffee drinkers pack each time.

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