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The greenwashing of Keurig

Amelie Zhao

On March 13, Keurig announced a new product, K-Rounds. The K-round seems to be a great solution, except it might be just another attempt at greenwashing by the company.

K-Rounds are a new type of coffee pods that are plastic and aluminum-free. The pod is made of plant-based materials that Keurig plans to certify as compostable.

The K-round is a response to years of concern over the sustainability of plastic pods. For example,  K-pods were banned from all government buildings in Hamburg, Germany in 2016 because of their environmental impacts. Since then, Keurig improved its K-cups and started producing them out of number five plastic and made them more recyclable.

Keurig also offered a recycling program for offices that used their machines, but it was not available for day-to-day consumers. Some found a solution by continuously refilling the same K-pod with pre-grounded coffee, but the problem remained. Many people simply do not recycle their K-pods.

The K-rounds require the purchase of a new coffee machine. This means every consumer who decides to purchase the new more sustainable coffee pods will have to purchase a whole new coffee machine and discard the old machine, making the more sustainable option costly.

The discarded coffee machines will inevitably lead to more waste, counteracting the attempts to eliminate as much waste as possible. To recycle the old coffee machine, a person would have to send it to a recycling station or mail it back to Keurig —  a program that is currently not offered.

This is not the first time that Keurig tried to greenwash its products. In 2022, the company had to pay a settlement both in the United States and Canada in a class action lawsuit which alleged that Keurig deceptively advertised its K-pods as recyclable. Keurig had to pay $10 million in a settlement and suffer advertising restrictions moving forward.

The most interesting part of this new Keurig product is its similarity to an existing coffee machine and recyclable pod brand in Europe that is called CoffeeB. Coffee B came out with the “Coffee Ball,” a ball-shaped capsule coffee that was made to be 100% garden compostable.

Their machine compresses the capsule extracting the coffee and leaving a compostable pod behind. It was first introduced in September 2022 in Switzerland and has expanded to other countries in Europe.

The idea of the K-rounds and the look of the new coffee machine seem astonishingly similar to the machine from Coffee B. Not only is it possible that another lawsuit will ensue, but, likely, that Keurig’s attempt at sustainable coffee pods is not driven by environmental concerns.

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