K-Cups banned in Hamburg, Germany; local company recycles coffee pods

Hamburg, Germany's second largest city, has officially banned single service coffee pods made famous by Keurig's K-Cups from state-run buildings to cut down on environmental waste.

Almost all of the leftover plastic cups end up in landfills, ultimately emitting greenhouse gases. But the compostable coffee grounds entombed inside of the cups could be turned into plant growing, water- saving compost.

"We love coffee grounds.  They help us make really good, high-quality compost," says San Francisco Recology's Robert Reed. 

To him, K-Cups and other coffee pods are unacceptable.

"Very, very difficult to recycle products that are made out of multiple materials and, it really presents tremendous challenges and that's why there's been a really big environmental resistance and push back," says Reed.
Many environmentalists say the solution, is to outright ban the pods in favor of traditional coffee pots and paper filters, but, millions of Americans say they love single service coffee and the perks that method offers with large families who may prefer options of several different flavors.

At the same time, consumers are conflicted by the unnecessary waste.

A company that was born in San Francisco is figuring out ways to keep everything, including the packaging, out of the landfill. 

"We got into this only because we had to.  It was the way the market was moving," says John Rogers, a second generation coffee maker.  The Rogers family-owned San Francisco Bay Coffee Company, now located in Lincoln, CA.,  is investing heavily in technology, and says it's very close to making its coffee pods 100 percent compostable. Rogers says it is currently at 98.5 percent. 

The final hang up is the water filter— essentially tea bag material that stubbornly resists composting.

"All the other components, except for the small filter paper, will go away in three weeks in an industrial composting bin and in about 2 months in my home composting bin," says Rogers.