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Keurig K-cup inventor regrets idea

Keurig creator says he 'regrets' his invention due to the environmental waste it generates

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, March 5, 2015, 4:33 PM - Despite bringing joy to millions of coffee-craving people every day, John Sylvan, creator of the Keurig coffee maker, regrets his invention due to the amount of waste it generates.

To this day Sylvan does not understand consumers 'slavish' addiction to the pods, which he finds, "Rather expensive."

When Sylvan developed the product, he thought it would mainly be used in offices -- but that hasn't been the case. According to the Atlantic, one in three U.S. homes owns a pod-based coffee machine. As many as 40 per cent of Canadian homes use them, and the non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste they generate are extremely unpopular among environmentalists.

"I don't know why people have them in their house," Sylvan told the CBC, adding that consumers should consider purchasing eco-friendly alternatives.

Sylvan worked at Keurig during the 1990s. He thought he Keurig would be a benefit to office dwellers, enabling them to grab a cafe-quality drink without having to venture outside.

"That would make it environmentally neutral, because you wouldn't have those Starbucks cups [everywhere]," Sylvan told the CBC.

RELATED: New study suggests 8 million metric tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year

But the popularity of the product negated his intention, quickly morphing into a massive generator of plastic waste.

Sylvan left the company in 1997 and sold his ownership to Keurig Green Mountain for $50,000.

Today, the company sells billions of plastic K-cups each year, with Canadians spending $95 million in 2014 on single serve coffee products. 

In 2013, 8.3 billion K-cups were produced.

Keurig Green Mountain says it plans to have its cups fully recyclable by 2020, but Sylvan tells the CBC he's skeptical of the plan.

"There's other ways to do it, but they're not exploring other ways to do it," he says. "They're going to make those little plastic cups forever, because they can't think outside the box."


Plastic coffee pods can degrade to form microplastics, which can migrate into waterways and pose a threat to wildlife.

While all the components used to create a K-cup are recyclable individually, the product cannot be recycled when combined into a single unit.

The cups can take up to 50 years or more to degrade in a landfill.

Sources: The Atlantic | The CBC


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