Posted on Fri, Sep 01, 2017

There is a new trend sweeping the nation, and many savvy businesses are jumping on board: zero waste. Zero waste is an interdisciplinary practice that aims for the lofty goal of eliminating contributions to landfills. Entrepreneurs have begun thinking outside the box and stepping away from our current linear industrial system of production-consumption-disposal. Straight lines are out; we are now thinking cyclical, byproducts of manufacturing return to the system either to be reused or repurposed. You may hear bragging from companies about a "75% diversion rate"; telling you that they have avoided sending 75% of their trash to a landfill or incinerator, an accomplishment that certainly deserves applause.

However, some overachievers laugh at 75% as they set their sights much higher, as in 25% higher. That's right; several industry leaders have set the noble goal of a 100% diversion rate! And it is possible, several have already achieved it including game changers like Subaru and Microsoft.

Lobby_A2-7248-2.jpgPhoto credit: Keurig® Green Mountain® used with permission

Keurig® Green Mountain® has joined those ranks and has included a 100% zero waste achievement as part of their seven 2020 sustainability goals. They are off to a fantastic start with an average of 93% already reached among their manufacturing and distribution plants. More powerful is their jump from 2015 to 2016 of 5%, thanks to new technology that aids in the dismantling of K-Cup® pods that have failed quality standards. With this new machine, they can harvest and compost the coffee from the pods rather than send it to a landfill.

Keurig® Green Mountain® is employing several mechanisms in the fight against waste including:

  • recycling
  • composting
  • repurposing
  • waste to energy conversions

Each Keurig® Green Mountain® location houses a waste committee tasked with seeing ideas through from brainstorming to implementation. The teams use positional flexibility to coordinate with neighbors and partners both on a regional and national level. For example in their Castroville, Ca. location engineers have formulated a system for pelletizing coffee chaff (a byproduct of the roasting process) for easy transportation and eventual composting at a nearby organic tomato farm. In Montreal, Canada spent K-Cup® pods are used at a neighboring cement kiln to power their operations through waste to energy methods and add bulk to their final product.

GMCR_Sumner0072-2.jpgPhoto credit: Keurig® Green Mountain® used with permission


There are six main waste items that the teams must address:

  • cardboard boxes
  • plastic bags
  • burlap coffee sacks
  • coffee bean chaff
  • coffee beans that fail quality standards
Each plant has made astounding strides as we can see by their stellar diversion rates:
  • Castroville, Ca  78%
  • Essex, VT  92%
  • Knoxville, TN  92%
  • Sumner, WA  97%
  • Waterbury, VT  94%
  • Williston, VT  93%
  • Windsor, VA  98%
  • Montreal, CA 90%
The listed percentage of resources saved from landfills seems impressive but, what does it mean in actual volume? As you might means a lot, these plants are highly productive, pumping out massive amounts of ground, whole bean, and pod coffees. Of each of the methods they use as an alternate to trash, the following is the number of tons saved:
  • reuse 3962 tons
  • recycle 11997 tons
  • compost 2944 tons
  • waste to energy 2390 tons

GMCR_Sumner0152-2.jpgPhoto credit: Keurig® Green Mountain® used with permission

Leaving only 1657 tons to be sent to landfill! The discharge issues that remain will be solved swiftly with number one on Keurig® Green Mountains® 2020 Sustainability Goals- K-Cup® pod recyclability. Recyclable K-Cup® pods are on the market and have been for about a year, as a small release test which has been astoundingly successful. So much that Canadian Keurig® coffee products (made by Keurig® , we can not speak for the renegades) will be 100% recyclable this year! The United States is slotted for the same by 2020. Recyclable K-Cup® pods are a win-win solution as they will aid Keurig® Green Mountain® in their in house zero waste goals and of course we, the consumers will be contributing in our own homes.

Keurig® Green Mountain® has released a 140-page outline of their sustainability plans...lofty to say the least. But, I am not surprised after touring their original facility (in Waterbury, VT, a city drenched in green both literally and figuratively) nearly ten years ago. I saw the vision then, it existed well before and as we see will continue into the future.


We are thrilled to announce that all capsules are now recyclable in Canada! In addition, Terracycle has begun accepting the spent products in their zero waste boxes👏🏼. You can learn more about Terracycle waste reduction options here

You may also like:


Most popular posts

gray bar
Keurig® Brewing for Beginners cover
gray bar
Ultimate Guide the Best Kcups
gray bar