In 2014, Keurig sold 9.8 billion non-recyclable K-cups. That's enough cups to circle the Earth almost 11 times over.
There are few things more satisfying on this planet than a hot cup o' joe. Coffee, I mean.
It lifts our spirits on the way to work. It gets us through that dreaded morning slog. It's, well...
In recent years, the single-serve K-cup (or whatever brand you choose) has quickly become a favorite method for delivering this heavenly elixir into our bodies as quickly and efficiently as possible. It better suits our unique, individual tastes than brewing an entire pot of coffee, and it cuts down on all that needless waste ... right? Nope.
Hamburg, Germany, just became the first city ever to ban single-use coffee cups from its government-run buildings because of how wasteful the cups are.
While the single-serve pods popularized by Keurig save us from having to dump the remainder of our coffee pots down the drain every day, the pods themselves are actually far more damaging to our environment.
The pods are made from a mixture of plastic and aluminum, and many of the world's recycling plants don't have the necessary resources to process them accordingly. There's also the issue of the cup's size, which at three grams, accounts for a third of the product's total weight.
About 13% of Germany's citizens are daily drinkers of coffee made in a single-serve brewer, so the problem is quickly getting out of hand.
Hamburg has about 1.7 million, which means at least 221,000 single-serve cups are being disposed of by the day.
So in an effort to combat this K-cup epidemic, Hamburg government officials issued a series of purchasing regulations in January with the goal of making their city more sustainable and eco-friendly.
"These portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminum," Jan Dub, spokesperson for the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy, said in a press conference held over the weekend.
It's not just Germany that has a serious caffeine problem.
Here in the U.S., the percentage of households with single-serve coffee makers has jumped, from 15% in 2014 to 25% in 2015. In Western Europe and the United States, sales of single-serve cups have more than tripled in the past five years, with industry leader Keurig selling over 9.8 billion of them in 2014. And of those near-10 billion pods sold in 2014, only 5% were recyclable.
While Keurig has promised to produce a completely recyclable K-Cup by 2020, even its founder (and the inventor of the K-Cup), John Sylvan, admits that's an unrealistic goal.
"No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable," Sylvan said in an interview with The Atlantic. "I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it."
In any case, a tip of the cap is due to Hamburg for recognizing a problem and taking preventive measures so quickly.
The conveniences we desire in life can often come at the cost of sustainability, unfortunately. It's one thing to say that you're "going green," but it's another thing entirely to actually stick by your convictions when they require sacrifices.
In this case, that "sacrifice" could be as small as occasionally brewing a pot of coffee for you AND your co-workers to share. You know, like human beings.
And besides, it's not like drip coffee is that hard to make, right?