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Coffee pods pose ‘complex’ recycling issues

The raging popularity of coffee pods also comes with a yet-unconquered environmental hurdle.

The reason: The cups are generally a miniature assortment of different types of plastic, paper, metal and coffee grounds that makes it hard for recyclers to process.

Moreover, the cups are so small that they often fall through the cracks of most recycling facilities, experts say.

“It’s virtually impossible to recycle all of this stuff,” said Darby Hoover, senior resources specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit.

“It’s a complex issue. We haven’t cracked the code yet,” said T.J. Whalen, an executive with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the owner of Keurig, which manufactures the most popular single-serve brew format, the K-cup.

Green Mountain has launched a new brewing format, called Vue; its cups are made of No. 5 plastic, which is recyclable in many cities in the U.S.

Starbucks says the main body of its Verismo cup is made of No. 5 plastic.

Hoover said that while single-serve brewers help reduce the amount of coffee wasted, their widespread adoption in households has created a huge waste of “so many other materials that don’t really have to exist.”