Monday, October 27, 2008

Plastic Green Mountain Coffee

Plastic Green Mountain Coffee
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.

Green Mountain Coffee used to be one of my heroes - a business based on doing the right thing.

A lot of other people thought so, too, so Paul Newman, rest his soul, Heifer, National Wildlife and PBS among others, use GMC Fair Trade Organic coffees for fundraising. I have been delighted with their coffee and the opportunity to support these good causes.

But then, GMC got involved in the plastic waste business (not to mention unnecessary use of energy) in the form of Keurig cups. In this way, people don't have to get their little hands dirty with coffee filters, or drink the same kind as the guy in the next cubicle. They don't even have to use a paper pod. Instead, they get their coffee packaged in individual plastic containers, which include a paper filter.

The hot water most likely leaches out some of the nasty plasticizers from the plastic cups to add to the flavor of the organic, sustainable, fair trade coffee, and then the plastic is added to the waste that becomes part of landfill, ruining land for the Wildlife they supposedly support.

How low can a company go?

Of course the least they could do would be to take me off their mailing list when I ask them to, so they don't bring up my ire every time they send me a new one!

See my earlier post on this topic: Green Mountain Coffee is Generating Trash


Sandy Yusen said...

Hello Bonnie,

I know Mike Dupee, our VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, responded to the concerns you raised in your last posting about the environmental impact of the K-Cup. Since he last wrote, we have begun a Life Cycle Analysis on our products & packaging, so that we can more clearly understand how and where we can reduce the K-Cup’s environmental footprint. We expect to be able to share more information once this has been completed.

In the meantime, I’m sorry to hear that your requests to be taken off our mailing list have not been honored. If you could email me with your mailing address, I’ll work with our customer service folks to remove you from our lists.

Sandy Yusen
Green Mountain Coffee

bonbayel said...

Thank you, Sandy, for your comment.

May I suggest that you put the coffee in recycled, unbleached paper pods, which can be used in the metal "My K-cup"?
That way you don’t have to worry any of the nasties that you are working with now – metal lids or plastic cups. I’m assuming that whatever pods you sell are not packaged in individual metal foil wrappers, and that your filters are unbleached recycled paper.
By the way, I had to get all the way to page 35 in the catalogue (which I just retrieved from recycling) to find the metal K-cup. You should be featuring it on all pages, not all that plastic waste!

A quick look through the catalogue showed K-cups on an estimate 2/3 of the pages. I thought you were selling organic, fair trade coffee, not waste!

Sandy said...

Thanks for your suggestion. It's a tricky challenge for a few reasons...

The packaging elements we now use in the K-Cup prevent oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee and spoiling the product. Without the barrier these materials provide, we could not maintain the quality and freshness of the coffee in the K-Cup, which means that all of the resources and effort put into growing and roasting great coffee would be wasted.

Using recycled materials in the K-Cup is also a challenge. Current FDA regulations require that the layer of the cup that is in contact with our coffee be made with non-recycled material. There are two materials that are exceptions to this rule. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PEN (polyethylene naphthalate) have been approved by the FDA for use in food containers. However, the puncture characteristics of the material won't work in the Keurig brewer.

We appreciate and share your concerns and we are continuing to research and invest in solutions for this environmental challenge.


bonbayel said...

OK. Just think creatively! And sometimes the good old methods are perfect.

Coffee has long been packaged in airtight bags or metal cans. Can't you put the coffee in pods made of "sustainable" paper from "sustainable" forests and then package the pods in a can with 50 or 100 pods?

When I got my espresso machine, there was a can of pods with the machine. It worked fine.

You can design the cans with the same info as the stupid plastic and foil K-cups, but with lots more room for information about Heifer or organic coffee or whatever. And then you don't need any more packaging.

The metal cans can be recycled (or reused.) In a perfect world, people could send the cans back to you for a refill. Or you could send them a refill in cellophane. The short time it would be in transport couldn't hurt it too much.