Keurig Green Mountain Inc. has taken North America by storm with its fabulously convenient coffee pod brewing system — up to three million homes in Canada own a Keurig machine.
But the company has also been a victim of that success, weathering epic abuse over the mountains of spent pods that clog landfills across the continent.
A 2015 spoof of a disaster movie that went viral on You-Tube, Kill the K-Cup, depicts monsters made of coffee pods who disembark from coffee pod flying saucers and rain terror on a city using spent Keurig pods as ordnance.
Now Keurig Canada Inc. wants consumers to feel better about coffee pods. The company has retooled its factory in St. Michel, a suburb of Montreal, to produce K-Cup pods in polypropylene No. 5, which is recyclable.
But recyclable where, and at what cost?
While Halifax and cities across British Columbia, for example, accept the pod cups in the blue bin (provided consumers remove the lid, dump the coffee grounds, and, in the case of Halifax, remove the filter), big cities such as Toronto and Keurig’s home town of Montreal do not.
Keurig’s battle to salvage its environmental reputation is emblematic of the pitfalls that face companies: they may win friends with a simple, practical product, but also can get a bad name if they don’t plan what happens at the end of the product’s life.
“Over 60 per cent of Keurig users say that impact on the environment of using these machines is their number one concern,” said Robert Carter of NPD Canada, whose questionnaires survey 130,000 Canadians. “That’s really, really big.”
Pollution concerns, however, have not stopped people from buying K-Cups, because “the convenience factor always outweighs other factors,” Carter said. “Consumers say they believe companies are doing as much as they can to make these pods environmentally friendly.”
Coffee pods are tremendously convenient: just pop in the little capsule, press the button, and you get an exact-size, hot cup of coffee, every time. This ease of use has led to spectacular growth in the category.