Are coffee pods a poor environmental choice for hotel industry?

9.8 billion K-Cup coffee portion packs were sold in 2014. One in three Americans own a Keurig K-Cup or some other kind of disposable pod style coffee maker. John Sylvan, inventor of the K-Cup, is not one of them.

Sylvan told The Atlantic, “I don’t have one. They’re kind of expensive to use. Plus, it’s not like drip coffee is hard to make.”

Last year, Keurig Green Mountain pledged to create a fully recyclable version of its blockbuster product, the K-Cup, by 2020.

The Atlantic – May 2015

The sound of my drip coffee maker just ceased and I have 8 cups sitting warm in the pot on my kitchen counter, made from a bag of coffee I purchased for $5.75 per pound. The cost of K cups is about $40 per pound of coffee.

In November 2013, I wrote a Loyalty Traveler article about the environmental waste of K-Cups when it was announced that Hilton Garden Inn signed with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to bring Keurig single cup coffee makers to its hotel rooms as a brand standard.

Loyalty Traveler – Making a plastic planet one cup of coffee at a time (Nov 7, 2013)

When I wrote my article 18 months ago, there were pod coffee makers in about 1in 8 U.S. households. That number is now 1 in 3.

“No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” Sylvan said. “The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers.” The cups are made from plastic #7, a mix that is recyclable in only a handful of cities in Canada. That plastic keeps the coffee inside protected like a nuclear bunker, and it also holds up during the brewing process. A paper prototype failed to accomplish as much.

The Atlantic

Nespresso is the coffee maker I commonly see in Europe. Nespresso produced an estimated 28 billion coffee pods last year.


The hotel industry is in the business of keeping guests satisfied. Single pod coffee makers are a popular trend. As I reported in my previous article, hotel guests rank a hotel’s environmental policies near the lowest concern when considering the hotel industry.

Too bad there is not more guest concern over the environmental impact of hotels. I think coffee pods are a poor choice for the hotel industry.

Creating sustainability for your hotel –

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »


  1. Yes, such a waste of plastic. I have a Keurig machine at home but it’s a gift from my ex-roommate’s friend so I kept and now use it. I bought a reusable filter cup so I can buy my own bag of ground coffee and just wash the reusable cup.

  2. Nespresso does have a system in place to recycle capsules – I collect them and bring them to the boutique for recycling every time I buy new capsules. Nespresso capsules and aluminum not plastic.

  3. Coffee pods produce a lot of waste. They are so much more convenient, but at the same time, every time I use one I feel like it’s such a waste.

    I have a regular filter coffee machine at home (and an espresso machine that doesn’t use pods), but at work we have Nespresso. And while I know the pods can be recycled, unfortunately when the container is full of used pods, they get thrown away…

  4. Is it really that much worse than what hotels are doing now – providing single-use filter pouches wrapped in plastic? The last person I heard speak out against K-cups was drinking a 7-Eleven coffee with one of those plastic sipping lids… is there really less plastic in there than a K-cup? Doubtful. And I also doubt either that coffee lid or that single-use coffee plastic wrapper are getting recycled.

    I realize K-cups aren’t environmentally friendly, but I think they’re getting more hate than they deserve.

  5. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable.”


  6. I’ve been using a refillable pod for my Keurig for years. They cost about $3, you can use your own coffee, and they take 5 seconds to dump out, rinse, and reuse. We keep a few pre-loaded next to the Keurig machine so when you’re in a hurry, you just pop one in and run.

    People that make 8 cups of coffee in a conventional brewer and drink only 3 are the ones that are really wasting resources.

  7. I think it is tough for those of us who travel a lot for pleasure to really complain about environmental policies. The planes, trains, and automobiles are probably worse for the environment than some k-cups. Especially, as mentioned above, the alternative is usually these plastic and foil wrapped little things in the room that you put in the mr-coffee machines.I’m sure we also contribute to “wasted water” with the pools we like to swim in and the the golf courses we like to play.

  8. I never use k-cups at home, but it’s often kind of difficult to use a hotel coffeepot. The ability to wash everything is limited in a hotel room, and they’re just hard to use. So when I find a hotel that uses k-cups, I’m very glad.

Comments are closed.