Recycling Greenwashing Exposed as Keurig Faces Coffee-pod Lawsuit

by Liz Skolnick

Many of us are familiar with those little Keurig plastic coffee pods (or, “K-cups”) used to make a single serving of coffee. While the cups are marked “recyclable”, the reality is that the cups are too small and light to actually be recycled in modern materials recovery facilities. In light of this, a U.S. District judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit brought against Keurig may proceed.

This is a big win in the fight against corporate greenwashing that uses promises of recyclability as a kind of panacea against bad publicity and an excuse to perpetuate wastefulness. We hope that it may set the tone for a new age of increased transparency and real responsibility on the corporate side. All in all, it’s an important step in the fight against excessive packaging and waste.

Some highlights:

  • While Keurig pointed in their defense to instructions that consumers “check locally” concerning the pods’ recyclability, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam countered: "Common sense would not so clearly lead a person to believe that a package labeled as 'recyclable' is not recyclable anywhere.”

  • Judge Gilliam went on to state: “if a product is rendered non-recyclable because of its size or its components -- even if the product's composite materials are recyclable -- then labeling the product as recyclable would constitute deceptive marketing."

  • Keurig stated that it intends to make all its caffeinated pods recyclable by the end of next year and convert to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.

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