Can You Recycle K-Cups? (All You Need To Know)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

As a coffee lover or a general user of K-Cups, you understand that they are a great solution to saving water, coffee, and a few bucks on your electric bill.

Therefore, K-Cups help us in many ways, but have you thought of how they affect the environment? Or if they’re recyclable? Well, if you have, continue reading the article below as it answers those questions and more!

Can You Recycle K-Cups?

K-Cups are technically not recyclable as a whole because of what they are made from. Furthermore, K-Cups are made of aluminum, plastic, organic material, and a filter component usually made from paper. This means K-Cups aren’t recyclable as a whole, but it is if you break down each component and dispose of them properly.

If you’re feeling a little guilty about the number of K-Cups you’ve been contributing to the landfill, or you’re just curious about how earth-friendly they really are, then keep reading. Up next, we’ll share all you need to know about recycling K-Cups!

What Materials Makeup K-Cups?

K-Cups are made up of three parts, not including the organic material inside, which would be the coffee grounds:

  • The cup; is made from plastic
  • The Filter; generally, a paper product
  • The foil top; is made of aluminum

Aluminum is recyclable, and plastic usually is not, although some plastics can be. 

Furthermore, here’s what to do to properly recycle your K-Cups; remove the foil top, get rid of the coffee grounds inside, and throw away the paper filter. 

Once you’ve done that, your pod is considered recyclable. 

Therefore, basically the pod itself is the only part of the K-Cup that can be recycled. 

Are K-Cups Biodegradable? 

K-Cups are not biodegradable, however, when taken apart, they are recyclable. 

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Therefore, it’s important to note that biodegradable and recyclable are not the same thing. 

Furthermore, for something to be biodegradable, the item would eventually break down naturally, but there usually isn’t a plan in place to use the item for anything else. 

Let’s keep in mind a few things about why K-Cups aren’t biodegradable:

  • The pod is made from plastic and aluminum, which doesn’t break down easily or naturally
  • Can take up to five centuries to fully breakdown on its own
  • There are multiple parts to a coffee pod which makes it difficult to separate for proper recycling

So, it’s pretty important to remember that although the coffee inside the pod can be returned to earth, the rest of the pod isn’t. 

Furthermore, the plastics and aluminum that make up the pods are not considered to be recyclable.

In fact, they could increase plastic pollution and even contaminate the actual recycling process if you overlook the importance of recycling properly. 

So, to decrease the chance of this happening, some companies are considering incinerating all used K-Cup pods.

How And Where To Recycle K-Cups?

How And Where To Recycle K-Cups?

Keurig has a recycling program as the company is a large advocate for recycling and making its products environmentally friendly. 

Furthermore, in 2020 Keurig announced that their K-Cup pods are now 100% recyclable, which it’s important to note that they are referring to the pod itself and not the other components. 

This means that your used coffee pods could have a second life and maybe even a third.

With the endless opportunities that recycling offers to turn old objects into new things, it is great to report that your coffee pods are now included in this.

Even though they didn’t start out as being fully recyclable, Keurig made it a point to start up a program specifically dedicated to helping businesses recycle their unused K-Cups in 2011. 

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Then, by 2014 they committed to making sure all of their pods were completely recyclable by the end of 2020.

Additionally, 100% of the fully recyclable pods produced in Canada launched in 2017, and North America wasn’t far behind in reaching that 100%. 

What Are Some Alternatives To Using Traditional K-Cups? 

Limiting waste can get tricky, especially when it comes to the things that bring a smile to your face, like coffee. 

However, there are a few alternatives that you should take into consideration if you’d rather not have to think about buying specific coffee pods. 

Furthermore, these alternatives can decrease the amount of coffee you’re using per brew, save you a little money on your energy bill and limit the amount of waste you create. 

Some of those alternatives are:

  • Drip Coffee Maker: Making your coffee strong has never been easier to do with the drip coffee method, and honestly, the drip coffee method utilizes the least amount of electricity compared to other methods
  • French Press: Besides the fact that you can customize how you want your coffee to taste, using a French press allows you to decrease waste.
  • Reusable Pods: Simply put, these pods can be used multiple times, and they’re washable. With this option, you’re not wasting unnecessary amounts of plastic, and you’re saving yourself time and money.
  • Purchasing Coffee that is environmentally friendly: Yes, you read this correctly; some coffee pods are completely compostable and recyclable. Some of those pods are made from waste sugarcane

Additionally, having an alternative to K-Cups means that you are potentially saving money, and electricity, reducing waste, and decreasing the chance of plastic pollution. 

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However, have you ever wondered where your used K-Cups end up after you toss them into the trash? 

Well, they end up in a landfill or other places, and they sit there for at least 500 years until they break down on their own or someone comes along and burns the pods. 

Furthermore, with the amount of water that Keurig coffee makers waste, it’s undeniable that other options may be better suited for fixing your coffee craze. 

This is not even including the fact that K-Cup Pods not only take up space in your home, but they take up space wherever they end up after you toss them. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle ice cream cartons, whether you can recycle frozen food boxes and bags, and whether you can recycle duct tape.


K-Cups are made of recyclable materials such as plastic and aluminum, so you can recycle them! Furthermore, now you can enjoy your custom cup of coffee fresh from the Keurig without feeling guilty for having to throw your used K-Cups in the garbage. 

Instead, you can add them to your recycling bin and drink all the coffee you want! But just like all other recyclables, remember to rinse out the organic material (in this case, the coffee grounds) before you throw them in the bin.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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