Ask TSL: What Type of Plastic is Used in Keurig Coffee Makers and K-cups?

Question: “Hi, I just bought a Keurig coffee maker and the K-cups (which are filled with enough coffee to make one cup) are made of an unknown plastic. Boiling hot water is sent into a filter in the K-cup to make the coffee. Do you know if the plastic they use is safe?”

Answer: We contacted Keurig and asked about their brewers and K-cups. After about 20 minutes of waiting for them to find out, they finally came back to say they don’t use polycarbonate, but they had no idea what type of plastic(s) they do use.  They promised to get in touch with someone in development to find out.

We contacted them again over the next two weeks, spent more time on hold, and again we were told by the operator that they would get back to us soon with the info. . .

We were grateful to finally receive an email response from the Customer Service Manager:

We use a variety of plastics in our Brewers and some do contain BPA.  With the higher level of concern about plastics in consumer products these days, we often get asked about the materials. I am happy to report that the Cold Water Reservoir, K-Cup holder assembly and the K-Cups are BPA-free and constructed using only FDA approved food safe materials.  In addition, the temperature of the water dispensed in Keurig brewers is well below the melting and softening points of the K-Cup materials. Therefore, no plastic leaches from the K-Cup into your cup of coffee, tea or hot cocoa.

The Hot Water Tank and heater are both stainless steel.

We regularly review the components used in our products to ensure that they are safe in every way, as well as meet or exceed applicable FDA standards.

Thank you again for your inquiry.  We hope this information proves helpful.

Much of the information was helpful, but we still can’t seem to get an answer about the type of plastic is used in the K-cups, and which containers actually have DO have BPA in them.  Well, at least we know the coffee can be brewed into the BPA-free coffee mug of your choice.

This is another great example of how difficult it can be to find safe products.  If you find yourself having trouble wading through the information you’re given by manufacturers, be sure to sign up for our free e-course to learn how to do your own successful product research.

Be sure to let us know what response you’ve gotten when contacting Keurig.

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Alicia Voorhies is a Registered Nurse who decided to take a break to relax and enjoy her young kids after 13 years of working with disabled adults. She began to explore the world of alternative health ideas and was immediately attracted to the mysteries of endocrine disruptors and their effect on children. In 2007 she founded The Soft Landing along with her mom and sisters to help parents provide a safe, natural home for their children without drowning in an overwhelming sea of information.

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  • Erika Lance Welch

    I understand the appeal of the K-cup brewing – however these create so much excess waste – it really is a shame that they exist. I am glad that you still investigate products that people use but it would e so much better if the asker would just brew their coffee in a french press which results in fabulous coffee without any plastics at all and creates no excess waste – including no filter to toss!!

  • Mommy Is Green

    I have had the exact same problem with getting information from Keurig. Basically, they told me the same thing as you. I have a Keurig and I love it but I am very concerned about drinking BPA with my coffee. I saw that Breville has a stainless steel K-cup brewer. I specifically asked them about their BKC600XL (now they have the BKC700XL model). They told me it did not contain any BPA or lead. I really hope that's true because I want one. It's pricey but worth it if it's truly BPA-free.

    Regarding the K-Cups being eco-friendly, they totally are not. They cannot be recycled and do not biodegrade. I reuse each one by cleaning them out and donating them to my mother-in-law's art class where the students use them for projects. If someone is not able to reuse the cups I wouldn't recommend buying one of these machines.

    • Lisa

      I enjoy your definition of recycling. So, if I give them to my son to glue to a piece of paper, it’s okay!!

      • Mommy Is Green

        Hi Lisa! Nice to meet you. Let me further explain…the used K-Cups are used for high school class projects on a much larger scale. The specific project uses items people would normally discard or even recycle. If a project like this is going to be done, I’d rather the yogurt cups be recycled and the K-Cups be used instead since they cannot. Also, as you can see I wrote that comment 9 nine months ago. I am switching over to a french press now.

        Also, not everything is black & white. I know people are going to use the Keurig whether it is wasteful or not. So it’s better to let people know how to reuse the K-Cups rather than throw them away. As much as it would be nice, not everything is perfection.

        • Guest

          You are a nut case.  We are dumping the machine and going for a French Press.  

  • Amie Vetter

    Thank you for this information!
    I reuse my K-Cups with something called the K-cap! It is a cap that goes over the top of the cup and you can place your own coffee to brew inside! The little filters that are inside of the K-Cups are pretty strong and you can reuse the cups several (20 or more) times! This is how I get around the waste the Keurig produces.

  • Cynthia

    I looked into Keurig sometime back but did not get one because I noticed the portion that you fill with water had a number 6 recycling code on it.

    • Azarj10

      if it has the number 6 recycle code, it means its made out of PolyStyrene

  • Johanna

    Thanks for investigating this topic! Funny, we just watched the History of Coffee on History Channel last night! We considered a single brew Keurig [a few years back before we reexamined our waste and health issues], and came to the same conclusions as the previous posters -unknown plastic, not recyclable [but the craft idea is great!], excess waste and cost for pods [BB&B coupons would work, if they have your flavor]. As for reducing waste, the package we considered included a My K-Cup that you use over and over [and over…]. Personally, I love using our Bodum french press [we have 2!]. It takes WAY more time [10 minutes to grind, brew, wash up] than the Keurig, but for us, we control everything from coffee to freshness of water to intensity of brew. And they don't required any countertop space! Plus we found a local roaster that buys fair trade directly, so we get a better quality, fresher roast, more eco and human-friendly cup 'o joe!

  • Gery

    Thanks so much for the information. This site was very helpful. I am going to buy my daughter a pod style single cup coffee brewer made with stainless steel. My only problem is finding one that is smaller than the Breville BKC700XL model. Does anyone know of one?

  • http://www.aboutcoffees.com/ K Cups

    Good catch guys. I was all for these machines before, but this seems like a major issue that is being overlooked. I mean “unknown plastic?” Do you want that containing something you are ingesting?

    Another thing is the environmental impact of those tiny cups. They are so small, it’s hard to think of them in large quantities, but I can imagine these floating in the oceans with all the other plastics.

    I would like to touch on this in an upcoming article, with your blessing. Of course I will provide sources and links back to this site.

    Really good post.

  • http://www.largepot.net/large-pot/serve-coffee-in-a-glass-coffee-pot/ Large Coffee Pot

    Great! Thank for information, I’m looking for it for a long time,

  • Sapplesrus

    Well they do so have bpa – the reservoir lid is marked 7 and the reservoir is marked 6. 3, 6 and 7 are the dangerous ones with the highest bpa !!!! So your water is sitting in a high bpa container. I returned mine after seeing this. I also called them and they said someone would have to call me back and of course no one ever did!! Hey, they are made in China where they put plastic in baby formula and lead in children’s toys – what did we expect???

    • http://thesoftlanding.com Alicia

      Hi Sapplesurs – The #7 recycling is by far the most confusing to understand. Not all #7 plastics contain BPA, so that’s why it’s important to find out exactly what type of plastic is used by the manufacturer. Code 7 includes some of the newer, compostable green plastics, such as those made from corn, potatoes, rice, or tapioca, as well as layered plastics even though they don’t contain BPA (I wish they would make a code 8 for these!).

      Also, plastics #3 (PVC) and #6 (Polystyrene) do not contain BPA. They do, however, have other chemicals that we recommend avoiding. You can read more about the top reasons to avoid PVC at http://thesoftlandingbaby.com/2010/08/19/top-5-reasons-your-school-should-go-pvc-free/.

  • Twigggs_99

    All I have to say is that I bought one last year and used it everyday and within a few months my joints in my knees and elbows started to ache. I did alittle research on how to reuse a K-cup and then I found on this website that other people were experiencing the joint problem too. So I quit using my Keurig and within a short period of time my joints quit aching. I don’t know for sure if the K-cups are related to my joint pain but I haven’t used my Keurig since and the joint pain never returned. Here is the link to the website that I found: http://www.coffeedetective.com/can-i-recycle-my-keurig-kcups.html#comments

    • jerry

      I will ask if you stopped drinking coffee or simply stopped drinking keurig coffee? Sugar is known to cause inflammation and the easier to brew cups may have led to more coffee and increased sugar intake.

  • vi

    what i think these companies should do is make all their k cups from cornstarch. now Wendys makes cutlery from cornstarch. so why not use it in the production of coffee products.

  • Chad Andriowski

    I dispute the claim that “In addition, the temperature of the water dispensed in Keurig brewers is well below the melting and softening points of the K-Cup materials.” I have a small Keurig brewer in my office and I have observed that the bottoms of the K-cups get deformed slightly after brewing. The plastic is not melting at all, but this warping or deformation that occurs at the base of the pod seems to indicate that there is some softening of the plastic during the brewing process. Now whether that softening is enough to cause the leaching of any harmful chemicals into the coffee is another matter.

    • http://thesoftlanding.com/ The Soft Landing Sisters

      It’s important that we know the experiences people are having with the product to compare with the company’s statements. Thanks for sending your insight our way, Chad! ~Laura

  • Dr_Zarkov

    I dunno about these claims. I’ve been using K-cups for a while now, but the other day I could have sworn I tasted plastic in my coffee, and not just once. I really don’t think it was me either. I’m not that picky. The taste of plastic was pretty strong and it dawned on me that I had experienced that taste on many occasions using K-cups (but did not stop to note it). My judgment is that K-cups may be safe… but you are pushing your luck. It could be a mute point for me as I’ve decided to make the transition to tea by boiling water in a steel pot. My attraction to coffee on the whole has been fading in recent years.

    • http://thesoftlanding.com/ The Soft Landing Sisters

      Often times we find that people’s personal experience tells a more detailed story about the product. And when the information we receive from a company is difficult to acquire, we always keep that red flag handy and watch for additional information like yours. Thanks for the input! ~Laura

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