Are you addicted to single-serve coffee? We can't blame you. It's fast, convenient, and of course, delicious, but unfortunately, also super wasteful. (Even the inventor of the Keurig K-Cup has expressed regret over inventing the technology in the first place.)
Switching to a new brewing process that's lighter on plastic waste is the very best thing you can do when it comes to the environmental impact of your morning brew routine (our friends at Kitchn can help you find the perfect method). But if you can't bear to give up your K-Cup habit, you can make an effort to repurpose the used cups instead of throwing them away. And there are some really brilliant ways to do it.
From string lights to popsicle molds, here seven smart ways to upcycle your K-Cups.
1. Mini Hanging Planters
Who knew you could repurpose your empty K-Cups into some surprisingly chic hanging planters? Pierce two symmetrical holes on either side of the cup, then lace some durable string (such as jute or twine) through it and knot the ends to forge a hanger. Fill your mini planters with a tiny plant and soil and just tack to a wall when you're finished.
2. Seed Sprouters
Dreaming of an indoor herb garden that won't cost you an arm and a leg? Used K-Cups double as awesome seed sprouters for growing herbs indoors, just fill a few with your choice of soil and seeds and place in your windowsill for an instant mini-garden—just remember to water them regularly.
3. Desk Organizers
Searching for an eco-friendly way to keep your desk organized? Used K-Cups are the perfect size for corralling thumbtacks, paper clips, safety pins, and more,\ and won't cost you (or the environment) a thing.
4. Craft Supply Sorter
Believe it or not, you can streamline your kid's playroom or your own craft supplies with just a handful of empty K-Cups. Stash anything from broken crayons to glue sticks in your used cups, and simply stick them in a drawer if you don't want them in plain sight.
5. Glue Holders
Do your kids love craft time but can't be trusted with paint or glue? Before your living room gets covered in sticky gunk, cover the hole in the bottom of your empty K-Cups with tape and pour out paint and glue in small doses so your kids can create fun art projects without completely destroying your place
6. String Lights
Turn your used K-Cups into a cute set of string lights with nothing more than a utility knife and some old Christmas lights. Simply peel the foil off, cut an "X" into the bottom of each cup, and then slide them over the bulbs on a light string for a custom set of shaded lights in seconds.
7. Make Popsicles
Looking for a cheap and easy way to make some homemade popsicles in a pinch? Plug the hole at the bottom of a few used K-Cups (with hot glue or tape), pour in your liquid of choice, add a toothpick, and stick in the freezer for some freebie snacks in a few hours.
Are K-Cups recyclable?
Yes and no. There are many variables at play, between local recycling standards and the manufacturers of Keurig-compatible pods, so it's tough to give a quick and accurate answer.
The components of most K-Cups are recyclable or compostable—it's just plastic, aluminum, a paper filter, and spent coffee grounds—but only if they're separated. You can buy a Recycle-A-Cup recycling tool for $12 to make the dismantling part easy, then you have a few options:
- Compost the paper filter and coffee grounds.
- If you can recycle aluminum foil locally, clean the foil lid and place it in your curbside bin.
- If your curbside recycling accepts #7 plastic, put the plastic part in your recycling bin.
- OR collect your separated pods and mail them directly to the Medelco team (they design that cup cutter tool) a few times a year for processing.
Keurig now sells specialty recyclable K-Cup pods made of #5 plastic (a more commonly accepted plastic)—and the paper filter can be left inside before tossing it in the recycling bin. But again, it ultimately depends on what your municipality will accept.