K-Cup environmental concerns overrated: faculty

Christina McAllister
Life Reporter

The amount of K-Cups sold in 2014 is enough to circle the earth 10 times.

This figure comes from a satirical video campaign broadcast on YouTube called Kill the K-Cup, referring to the increasingly popular single-use disposable pods that hold ground coffee.

The video illustrates a monster made from Keurig K-Cups destroying a city, depictive of the alleged environmental damage this non-recyclable pod has on the environment.

CBC said critics of the K-Cup are calling it an environmental catastrophe and the creator of the cup, John Sylvan, has gone so far as to publicly announce his regret for inventing the product.

This tiny pod has caused quite the stir.

In an interview with CBC, Sylvan said he doesn’t understand why people have them in their house.

While the pods are not in fact recyclable, they are not the environmental calamity they have been painted to be, said University of Toronto Geography professor Pierre Desrochers.

“In order to be an environmental catastrophe for me they would have to kill something, or contaminate something,” said Desrochers, who specializes in sustainable development.

“Right now they’re being put in a landfill and as far as I know nothing else has happened because again, modern landfills are self contained and nothing leaks out,” he said.

Desrochers said while these pods are cause for concern, there are far more important and pressing environmental issues.

“Find me one life form that it has killed, one river it’s polluted, find me one air shed in a city that it has contaminated,” said Desrochers.

“Can we call it an environmental catastrophe? No. Are they a problem? Maybe, but a very minor one,” he said.

Humber Bachelor of Nursing student Anita Sych said the statements made by Sylvan will most likely damage Keurig’s sales because more people are choosing to go green.

Sych, who drinks instant coffee at home in the morning, said this attack on the company is hypocritical.

“I understand they’re not recyclable, but then in every day life they don’t take actions to recycle themselves. So you’re attacking a company, but do you really recycle anything else?” said Sych.

University of Toronto economics professor, expert on waste management and recycling Donald Dewees, said calling the issue of the K-Cup pods a catastrophe is an overstatement.

“I’m not convinced that it’s as big a deal as it’s portrayed in the media recently,” he said.

Dewees doesn’t deny that these pods are wasteful as they are mass consumed and non-recyclable.

“This is another example of wasteful consumption,” said Dewees . “We don’t need K-Cups, it’s perfectly easy to brew single cup coffee using a disposable filter. [But] there are lots of things that we do that are wasteful… I don’t see it myself as being high on the priority list,” he said.

Desrochers said the media buzz surrounding the K-Cup is attributed to how relatable it is.

“So many people drink coffee,” he said. “It’s an issue [people] can relate to, but in the grander scheme of things I believe it’s a relatively minor one.”

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