The ComPOSTer: Welcome Back & Compostable Coffee Pod Testing

Hi all,

The S.C.R.A.P. Lab has been back up and running for the past week since everyone returned from Fall Break.

One of the latest efforts we are testing is collecting and composting spent compostable coffee pods and their packages from departments making the switch from single-use disposable coffee cups. Made popular by Keurig about 15 years ago, these “K-Cups” have contributed to society’s growing plastic waste problem. In 2014, Keurig sold enough K-Cups that if placed end-to-end, would circumnavigate the globe 10.5 times. The majority of these ended up in landfills.

Since then Keurig has responded by creating recyclable K-Cups, but these are still energy intensive to make and there is no guarantee that the cups will actually be recycled. Consumers have to place them in recycling bins and not all recycling centers have the correct sorting technology to properly recycle them. Furthermore, more and more recycling centers across the U.S. have stopped accepting the type of plastic (#5) used to make these K-cups due to China’s import ban on plastic waste.

So… where composting facilities exist, the more sustainable option is a coffee pod made of compostable* materials and packaging like these from Wolfgang Puck Co.

These compostable pods are used in coffee machines such as NEWCO’s CX Touch.

Carola Gerbick removes a bin of spent coffee pods from the coffee machine.

The S.C.R.A.P. Lab is currently partnering with the Psychology and Geosciences departments to test the compostability of different types of  branded pods and packages claiming to be “100% compostable” inside of the in-vessel composting system.

If all goes well, we will try to advance this best practice across other campus departments.

*Look for “compostable”, not “biodegradable”, to ensure that the materials break down in a reasonable amount of time and don’t release metal residues. For assurance, pursue products that have been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). 

Weekly Data: 11/1 – 11/7

Last week we started to gradually re-fill the composting system so there wasn’t any compost to off-load. We expect to begin off-loading again at the end of this week.

Total Food Academic


/Event Collection

Campus Center/Cafes Wood Shavings (BA/CS) % BA/CS Compost Off-Loaded GHG Emissions Saved (MTCO2-eq)
11/1 – 11/7 2,967 333 2,634 1,026 35% 0
Cumulative (lbs) 142,250 3,718 138,532 46,162 32% 136,200 42