Initial Research: Basics of Pod Coffee Makers

Describe the functions and components of a pod-style coffee maker

Main Components

Pumping unit: draws water from the water tank and transports it to the boiler

Air pump: gives the ability for the pumping unit to transport the water to the boiler

Boiling unit: boils the water to get it at the adequate temperature for brewing

The water then comes up through the boiler through a check valve, where it is then inserted into the K-cup



Estimate the amount of waste that is generated by a typical user of a pod-style coffee maker over a given period of time

On average, coffee drinkers tend to consume around 2 cups of coffee per day.

Per 365 days in a year, this is around 730 cups of coffee per year for an average coffee drinker

Each cup of coffee from a Keurig pod results in 3.5 grams of waste sent to a landfill

Therefore, a typical Keurig user contributes 2,555 grams of waste per year (730 cups/year * 3.5 grams waste/cup) , which is equal to 5.63 lbs of waste per year per person.

Now lets estimate the amount of total waste created by coffee pods in the US

Around 16 million US Household use pod coffee maker, and assume that each house has on average 2 coffee drinkers in it

This results in an estimated 32 million pod style coffee drinkers drinking approximately 2 cups of coffee per day

5.63 lbs of coffee per year generated from a typical pod style coffee drinker times 32 million users in the US results in 180 million pounds of waste created by pod style coffee makers per year!


Understand the impact of pod-style coffee makers on current society in the USA

  • Around 16 million US Households use a pod coffee maker
  • These machines do have some positives:
    • Saves water, saves electricity, uses less coffee
  • Technically certain parts of the cup can be taken apart and recycled, but this presents too much work for the average user making the process too hard
  • These pods could take up to 500 years to decompose!

  • Besides just the environment, Pod coffee makers may very well be harmful for humans as well!

  • Keurig claims they use BPA free plastic, but they will not reveal their plastic formula and they make the pods themselves so it is hard to know whether they are telling the truth
    • This mysterious “#7 Plastic” presents problems because not all that much is really known about it.
  • Also, heating up plastic is never a good thing (could cause cancer)

  • Why are K Cups so popular?
    • Its all in the way of our culture right now. We live in a world where everyone is always in a hurry and looking for the quickest way to do something. Also, everyone is looking for that “cool new thing” that everyone else has to fit in. 
    • People are willing to pay more for convenience and time saved- in this case over 5 times more per pound of coffee
  • My thoughts are that the solution to this problem must still facilitate convenience and time saving for the user in order to be actually adopted by current Keurig Users.
  • Source:


  • Besides occupying landfills, the waste from coffee pods could also end up in the ocean in what’s called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”
    • This is a section of the ocean covered entirely in trash, from which 80% comes from land in Asia or North America
      • This section is twice the size of Texas
    • This garbage affects the ocean ecosystem, as fish will eat the garbage and damage themselves and other animals in the food chain