How to Recycle and Reuse K-Cups

What Is a K-Cup® Pod?

K-Cup® pods are single-serve coffee pods intended for the Keurig brewing system. They consist of a small plastic cup that’s sealed with foil and contains a single serving of coffee grounds and a paper filter. The Keurig machine punctures a small hole in the foil top and plastic bottom, so hot water can flow through to brew the coffee.


Advantages of Reusing Your K-Cups

If you’re interested in doing the least harm to the greatest number of people, the main benefit of reusing your K-cups will be waste reduction. Experts estimate that more than 50 billion used coffee pods get added to landfills across the globe every year.

  • Reusing each K-cup at least once will cut your personal coffee waste in half and put you squarely on the path toward drastically reducing your carbon footprint.
  • You can cut your coffee budget in half if you use each K-cup twice.
  • A K-cup encore can make a nice warm coffee-flavored, barely-caffeinated beverage to drink before bed.

If your wallet worries you more than your waste, let’s do a bit of math. The average K-cup costs about 50 cents. Drinking one coffee every day will cost you nearly $200 a year in pods alone. If you drink two coffees per day, the math gets easier. You’ll spend a dollar a day in pods, a total of $365 every year.

Related | Best K-Cup Coffee

Reusing your K-cups will also reduce your caffeine intake. If you’re the type of person who prefers slightly less strong coffee, whether for the flavor or the jitters, that second cup may hit the spot. It will still give your drink an unmistakable coffee flavor but with reduced caffeine and accompanying stimulation.

If you plan to recycle your K-cups, we recommend buying the highest-quality pods possible to make sure the second cup stays drinkable. If you buy expensive coffee but use each pod twice, you’ll still save money.

6. Hanging Planters

Your window display is about to get a whole lot better. With these flowers hanging, it won’t be just a cup of coffee that will cheer you up every morning—it’ll be your view, too. Follow this tutorial.

How Can K-Pods Be Repurposed?

Before you can reuse your plastic pods, there are a few simple steps you must follow:

Step 1: Separate the K-Cup® Pod’s Components

The easiest and most effective way to do this is to use a tool like the Recycle A Cup® cutter. This tool attaches to the top of the K-Cup® pod and has two rotating blades that remove the top foil part with just a turn of the wrist.

After you finish cutting the K-Cup® pod apart, you’ll be left with three main components – the aluminum foil top, the paper filter and coffee grounds from inside the pod, and the plastic cup. Don’t just throw these pieces in the garbage – there are several ways to dispose of them responsibly.

Step 2: Discard the Aluminum Foil

Unless you are extraordinarily creative, there aren’t many ways to reuse the aluminum foil that seals the top of the K-Cup® pod. However, this material can be recycled at most recycling plants – just be sure to check with your local establishment before you throw it in your bin.

Step 3: Compost the Paper Filter and Coffee Grounds

You may be tempted to throw the leftover coffee grounds and paper filter in the garbage, but there’s a simple, eco-friendly alternative. Composting coffee is a great way to do your environmental due diligence and create an ideal area for gardening. The best part? All you have to do is add your K-Cup® pods’ biodegradable components to a compost pile. To set up a new one, all you need are red worms (also known as red wigglers) and a mound of dirt – you can even use a plastic bin if you live in an apartment without outdoor space.

If you don’t have the time or resources to set up a composting pile or bin, simply throw your used paper filters and coffee grounds in your yard, and the earthworms in the dirt will eventually break everything down. Plus, the soil in that area will become rich with nutrients, which creates a fertile, sustainable environment for gardening.

Step 4: Repurpose the Plastic Pods

Out of all three components, the plastic cups provide the most opportunities for repurposing. With a few basic craft supplies and some creativity, you can:

  • Glue the pods onto a poster board or cardboard to make an organizer for miscellaneous supplies.
  • Decorate the pods to make holiday or seasonal ornaments.
  • Use the pods with young children to teach stacking, sorting, counting, and other concepts.
  • Use them as molds for creating soaps and bath bombs.
  • Plant seeds in the pods to make seedling starters.
  • Turn them into circle stamps for arts and crafts projects.
  • Freeze juices and other beverages in the pods to create mini popsicles.

These are just a sampling of the many different ways you can reuse K-Cup® pods. When it comes to coffee pod recycling, the only limit is your imagination.

5. Store small-portioned leftovers

Many delicious leftovers have been tossed out because there wasn’t enough worth saving. K-Cups are perfect for storing the food items that are too small for even your tiniest plastic storage containers. Use them to save the last tablespoon of gravy you didn’t have with your dinner, or the pinch of chopped herbs that didn’t make it onto your plate. If you don’t already have a reusable K-Cup lid, cover it with tin foil or plastic wrap to keep your food fresh.

How to Reuse K-Cups

1. Keep Herbs Handy

There’s nothing like fresh herbs to enhance a meal

There’s nothing like fresh herbs to enhance a meal, but most of us have trouble buying them in the right quantity to use up before they go bad. But a few used K-cups could solve that problem for you. Chop up your leftover herbs, pack them into a K-Cup and freeze. Bam — you’ve got a stockpile of fresh herby goodness to call upon whenever you’re in danger of a bland meal. You can also freeze chopped garlic this way to build yourself a time-saving stash.

2. Organize the Little Things

Empty K-Cups can be used to corral small items that are hard to keep organized. Just line them up in your junk drawer, craft supply bin, sewing kit or other messy area to hold anything from safety pins to loose beads. Consider placing the K-Cups inside a shoe box or drawer organizer to keep them lined up neatly. Unlike plastic baggies or lidded cases, their open tops make it more likely that you’ll actually continue using them!

3. Let Your Kids Get Crafty for Cheap

Whether it’s an unexpected snow day or a rainy summer afternoon, a stash of old K-Cups can keep your kids busy without you shelling out for pricey craft supplies. These are just a few ideas for things your kids can do with old K-Cups:

  • Use them as building blocks.
  • Turn them into mini bowling pins.
  • Use them for a coin toss game.
  • Make hats for their dolls or stuffed animals.
  • Turn them into wheels for a shoe box car.
  • Decorate them and string them together as a garland or oversized necklaces.
  • Fill one cup with rice, dry beans or other small items, then tape a second on top to make an instrument.

4. Get the Scoop

If you buy dry goods, coffee or spices in bulk, empty K-Cups make handy scoops for these items. Tape or hot glue over the hole and you’re all set. Want a scoop with a handle? Just clamp on a clothes pin and hot glue it in place! Voila – thriftiest pantry hack ever.

5. Go Gardening

By starting your plants indoors in the early sprin

By starting your plants indoors in the early spring, they’ll mature quicker once they’re in the ground — giving you more time to enjoy them. And your old K-Cups are the perfect size to act as seed starters. Simply fill them up with potting soil, plant your seeds and water regularly until your plants are big enough and the weather is right to transfer them to a pot or garden bed. You can even save some of the coffee grounds to add to the soil for a nutrient boost!

6. Light It Up

Used K-Cups are the perfect canvas for creating decorative strings of lights for the holidays, a child’s birthday party or just to jazz up an uninspiring room. Wrap each cup in colorful fabric or construction paper — embellished to your heart’s content — then slip the cups over the bulbs on a string of lights. LEDs are ideal for this project since they won’t heat up. You can even swap in differently decorated cups for different occasions!

7. Save Bite-Sized Portions

How many times has your latest culinary spree saddled you with just a few spoonfuls of a sauce or condiment left over? With a bead of glue over the hole and a little foil or cling wrap over the top, K-Cups are perfect for reusing as miniature Tupperware. No more cluttering up your fridge with mostly empty bottles!

They’re also handy for packing snack-size portions of hummus, peanut butter and other dips or condiments in your family’s lunchboxes.