Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With K-Cups?

Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With K-Cups?

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or
  • Editor’s Note 2: We embedded the above YouTube video because Jennifer references it in this column. But Kane County does not endorse any particular brand of consumer product.

Ah, recycling. Always changing, always evolving, always dealing with new products that gain popularity and challenge us to figure out how the heck we’re supposed to dispose them.

Take K-Cups, for example. Considered a novelty less than a decade ago, they have become ubiquitous in households and workplaces in Kane County and across America.

That’s why this week’s Q&A begins with a capital K.

What’s The Best Way To Recycle K-Cups?

Hi, Jennifer!

I’ve been removing the coffee grounds, foil cap, and paper filter from the individual plastic K-Cups and recycling the plastic. What is the best way to recycle this convenient, but mixed material product?


It’s Tricky, But …

Fun with foil.

Hi Sean!

K-Cups are a tricky one! They are definitely a hybrid of materials, and while convenient, are just not environmentally friendly. Here is my best advice:

Once separated:

  • Stack o’ K-Cups.

    Plastic cups can be nested, as in stacked inside of each other tightly, and can be recycled through a mail in program, probably turning it into plastic lumber. See this link.

    • They are a No. 7 plastic, which is a catchall for the category of “other plastics” — mostly they are polycarbonate. This kind of plastic is not recyclable in our regular curbside recycling.
    • You may also be interested in the toxicology information on this kind of plastic. See this link.
  • Ball o’ foil.

    Foil tops can be saved up in bulk and then wrapped in a sheet of aluminum foil, squeezed lightly into a ball shape — just enough to hold it together but not too tightly — about the size of a baseball, and then placed in your curbside recycling. You can also include other small foil tops from yogurt as well as foil from chocolate Easter eggs, Hershey’s kisses etc. I keep a tub on the fridge to collect these.

  • Grounds and filters can be composted in a backyard compost OR can be thrown in the trash.

You might also consider the reusable filters that are on the market. I found some on That would produce much less waste and avoid the health-related issues with PC food packaging.

Or use a French press! Zero waste, and you can compost the grounds!

Read More Reycling Q&A Stories