Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP), Burlington, Mass., and Plano, Texas, announced that it has successfully achieved one of its long-standing sustainability commitments — all of the K-Cup pods the company produces are now recyclable.
The extensive effort involved converting more than 100 manufacturing lines to produce the pods now made from polypropylene No. 5 plastic. In addition, new packaging for the recyclable K-Cup pods features a green recyclable flag as well as the industry-respected How2Recycle label that clearly communicates recycling instructions to consumers.
"It's an exciting day for KDP and our partners as we complete this multi-year journey that required intensive product development, significant capital investment and expansive industry engagement," said Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer at Keurig Dr Pepper, in a statement.
To ensure pods could be successfully recovered in recycling facility streams, in 2016, KDP pioneered testing using RFID technology to track tens of thousands of K-Cup pods in various recycling facilities across North America. Those tests demonstrated that K-Cup pods were able to successfully pass through the stream with other recyclables to be further sorted with containers, a finding which was further validated by the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
In addition to converting 100 percent of K-Cup pods to the new recyclable format, KDP has intensified its efforts to ensure that recycling facilities across the United States have the capability to recycle polypropylene. Earlier this year, with a $10 million commitment, KDP became a Founding Member and the largest funder of The Recycling Partnership's Polypropylene Recycling Coalition ("The Coalition"), a collaborative of 18 organizations, including fellow steering committee members Braskem, the Walmart Foundation and the NextGen Consortium, dedicated to increasing the quantity and quality of polypropylene recycling in the United States.
The Coalition also announced the recipients of its first four grants — Materials Recovery Facilities in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio — to improve and increase sortation of polypropylene and support targeted consumer education efforts to increase collection of this valuable material. These grants will widen total nationwide acceptance of polypropylene in curbside recycling programs by approximately 1.7 percent to an additional 4 million people, resulting in the recovery of a larger supply of polypropylene that could be made into new products such as consumer packaging and automotive parts.
Oxender added: "Designing recyclable coffee pods is just one important step in our journey to make the Keurig brewing system more sustainable. Our work continues to minimize our overall plastic footprint while we play a leadership role in cross-industry collaborations for critical recycling infrastructure improvements across the United States and Canada in support of a circular economy."
KDP is a Principal Member of World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) ReSource: Plastic activation hub, a first-of-its-kind effort to quantify corporate impact and track company actions and opportunities to reduce plastic waste.
"We developed ReSource: Plastic to help companies turn their plastic waste commitments into action, and that's exactly what Keurig Dr Pepper has done with today's announcement," said Erin Simon, head of Plastic Waste and Business for World Wildlife Fund. "Access to recyclable content is essential if we're going to build a larger plastic waste management system. Investing in polypropylene is a positive step toward building a system where materials can be successfully recovered."
KDP's research and development teams are working on new sustainability innovations for Keurig brewers and pods. In both Canada and the United States, the Keurig K-Mini and K-Mini Plus coffee makers in matte black are made with at least 20 percent and 30 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic, respectively, and the new K-Supreme Plus brewer also contains at least 30 percent PCR content. The company plans to increase those percentages in those brewers in 2021 while expanding the use of PCR to more brewer models.