How to Recycle K Cups

I’m not a coffee snob, I’m  a coffee hog. I can go from the high end americano at the coffee shop to the black sludge at my favorite greasy spoon (local diner). Sense Cara and I moved in together I’ve been a k cup user and abuser, burning through at least three of them a morning. I leave a pretty heavy trail of plastic containers in the wake of my coffee condition and I don’t always feel so hot about throwing out all that plastic so I wanted to figure out how to recycle k cups.

If you’ve been under a rock for the last few years and don’t know what a k cup machine is then I’ll give you a quick break down and what machine I’m attached to. K cups are single servings of coffee used by a Keurig machine designed to handle these single serve shots of coffee. Rather than waking up and pouring a cup from a pot your spouse might have made an hour before you just throw in a k cup and you have an instant cup of coffee. You can see the machine we own to the right.

CNBC covered this awhile ago and I’ve attached the video for you to check out.


Sense the it doesn’t seem recycling center can handle this waste product I wanted to try to see if I could handle it within our home. So before I tried to figure out how to recycle a k cup I had to understand what was inside of it, so from top to bottom:

  • aluminum foil lid
  • coffee grounds
  • heat sealed paper filter – I believe the “heat seal” just refers to how it is attached.
  • plastic cup

From the CNBC story it sounds like the problem isn’t the components of the k cup can’t be recycled but that  they’re attached in such away that makes them to difficult and time-consuming to recycle. So I have a couple of ideas on how to do this, if you have anymore I would love to hear them!

  • The aluminum foil is simple enough, I just need to peel off as much as I can after I’ve used my k cup. After that I can store them in a container until I have a collection and press them together with my hands and toss it in with my normal recycling.
  • The coffee ground will go into my little crock I got on sale which I hold organic material in until I’m ready to take it out to my compost heap.
  • The filer is made of plastic so that should be fine in my heap as well. I just have to tear that away from the plastic part of the k cup.
  • Now the plastic k cup might be the hardest thing for me to handle. Assuming I managed to remove all the aluminum foil and paper I should be able to recycle that with the rest of my recyclable, but I’ve yet to get a system down to do that consistently. Sense the plastic k cups all ready have a hole in the bottom from the brewing process I may be able to fill them with potting soil and start seeds in them indoors. I need some more useful ideas for the cups though.
  • I know it’s not perfect but it may just relieve some of the guilt I’ve felt every time I toss one of the k cups into my garbage.

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I'm no master gardener, but I'm always trying to learn new things. I'm always trying new gardening projects and I love to share them with our readers. I'm a landscaper designer by trade, but enjoy farmers markets and spending time with my family on the weekends.