The Keurig…good invention or bad invention?

By Debby Winters

Keurig has been in the news a lot lately.  First there was the news of Coca Cola buying a stake in Keurig Green Mountain so they could make do-it yourself Coke to challenge the popularity of Sodastream’s soda making device.  Remember the reports that the inventor of the Keurig machine said he doesn’t own one and he regrets inventing it? John Sylvan, who sold his interest for a mere $50,000 to Green Mountain, which should have paid Sylvan a lot more, says not only are the cups bad for the environment, but the replacement cups are expensive, costing as much as $40 per lb, and that “it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”

For those interested, Keurig’s patent on the original K-Cup (US5325765) expired in September 2012. Keurig holds at least one additional US patent (US6645537) detailing improvements that have subsequently been incorporated in their K-Cup design. There are additional stories surrounding competition and licensing of these products but that’s for another post. And then there are the other similar systems, like Nespresso, with its own triumphs and failures. Again, another post.

Now, on with the Keurig story. Then came “Kill the Kcup” trying to kill the k-cup because the k-cups were killing the planet. In the video they say that the K-cup has “reached unparalleled levels. Output became so high that there was enough discarded K-Cups to circle the earth 10.5 times.” The 2 minute video shows the K-cup invading and taking over the planet. The following statistics are listed:

Know your facts:

1. In 2013, Green Mountain Coffee produced enough coffee pods to wrap around the equator 10.5 times.
2. The new Keurig 2.0 does not offer reusable filters and the existing “my K-cup” filter does not fit on the machine.
3. Green Mountain only makes 5% of its current cups out of recyclable plastic.
4. Keurig Green Mountain’s mission is to have a Keurig System on every counter and a beverage for every occasion – hot, cold, maybe even soup.
5. The pods are made of No. 7 plastic, which can’t be recycled in most places. They have an aluminum lid, which is hard to separate from the cup. Even if the plastic, aluminum and coffee could be separated, the pod is too small to be handled by most recycling systems.
6. TerraCycle, a company that provides recycling solutions for spent coffee pods, has teamed up with Tassimo, Mars Drinks, Nespresso and Illy, but despite reaching out to the company multiples times, has not be able to develop a relationship with Green Mountain (Keurig).

Sounds alarming, I know!

A couple of good things that have come out of this controversy over the K-cup are that it has gotten people to discuss the best ways to make coffee and how the Keurig business model has affected the business world. Is a French Press really the best and easiest way to make coffee? You decide. Is the Keurig business model outselling the old “razors and blades” business model pioneered by Gillette? Interesting. I’m looking forward to the next installment of news surrounding the K-cup.

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