2018-01-26 / Community News

Students would like to end K-Cup madness

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Scarborough High School seniors Morgan Jackman (left) and Kaylie Mutrie look over an art projects they are working on to raise awareness of the dangers K-cup coffee pods pose to the environment due to their difficulty being recycled. Jackson and Mutrie hope the project will force students and staff to think twice before using K-Cups in the future. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough High School seniors Morgan Jackman (left) and Kaylie Mutrie look over an art projects they are working on to raise awareness of the dangers K-cup coffee pods pose to the environment due to their difficulty being recycled. Jackson and Mutrie hope the project will force students and staff to think twice before using K-Cups in the future. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough High School seniors Morgan Jackson and Kaylee Mutrie’s perfect world would be one devoid of K-Cups, a convenient, yet environmentally unfriendly way to drink coffee.

Mutrie said the single-serve coffee pods are made with No. 7 plastic, a hard composite plastic that, in most cases, cannot be recycled.

“That plastic is one of the hardest things to recycle. We use so many K-Cups, you could (use them to) circle the world twice,” Mutrie said.

Jackson said she first heard about the environmental impact of K-Cups, a product of Keurig, in Michael Carroll’s advanced placement environmental science class earlier this year.


Kaylee Mutrie displays a sketch of what an art project she is working on using used K-Cup coffee pods may look like. (Michael Kelley photo) Kaylee Mutrie displays a sketch of what an art project she is working on using used K-Cup coffee pods may look like. (Michael Kelley photo) “One day the idea of K-Cups came up. I thought, ‘how bad could they be?’ and I realized how much our school was using them. I told Kaylee about it and she dove in and did some research about them,” Jackson said.

After Mutrie’s research, she and Jackson said they knew they needed to do something to reduce the school’s reliance on K-Cups, or at least raise awareness on the impact they have after being thrown out.

After mulling it over for a bit and meeting with Scarborough High School Principal David Creech, Jackson and Mutrie decided to collect the school’s discarded K-Cups and use them to make a mural.

Jackson and Mutrie started collecting K-Cups from the cafeteria, teachers’ lounge, learning commons and function life skills classroom in October and by the time the end of December had hit, they had collected more than 1,000. They cleaned out the cups, removed the coffee, which has been donated to the school’s compost program for the school garden and attached them to a large piece of plywood. As of last Thursday, Jackson and Mutrie, members of the Environmental Club of Scarborough, were still in the midst of attaching the K-Cups. Once that is complete, the cups will be painted in a scene they have drawn up that depicts planet Earth in a tree surrounded by fish and flowers. The Paint Pot on Congress Street in Portland has donated recycled paint for the project, which Jackson and Mutrie hope is completed by February school vacation.

Jackson said Creech has agreed to let them hang their mural somewhere in the school. She would prefer a location near the cafeteria where it would serve as that ever-present reminder as students go in, and out, the cafeteria.

The goal of the effort is not to create a piece of artwork, but rather raise students’ and staffs’ awareness about the inability to properly recycle K-Cups and perhaps convince school administration to no longer make the K-Cups available.

“We are hoping we can convince our school K-Cups aren’t necessary for our morning routines,” Mutrie said.

Jackson said although drip coffee is available in the cafeteria, K-Cups remain a popular choice because of the wide variety of flavors they come in.

“The tendency of our age group is to grab and go, so mindfulness of where (the cups) go and what happens, is important, Jackson said.

While the duo has enough K-Cups for their project, they are still pulling the cups out of the trash and setting them aside. Some of the extra cups, Mutrie said, have been donated to Leesa Joiner’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) class to use as planting pots.

“Coffee grounds are very fertile for growing because of the enzymes they produce,” Jackson said.

Keurig, the manufacturer of K-Cups, recognizes the environmental impact of the disposable, single-use coffee pods and have begun offering recyclable K-Cups made with polypropylene No. 5 plastic, with the goal of having 100 percent of the cups offered be recyclable by 2020. The recyclable pods were first introduced in the United States and Canada in 2016 and Keurig has set a goal of converting 100 percent of the pods in Canada to the recyclable one by year’s end. The cups made with No. 5 plastic can be recycled, but only after disposing of the foil cover and removing the spent coffee grounds.

Until the recyclable K-Cup is ubiquitous or K-Cups are banned at Scarborough High School, Jackson and Mutrie will continue to collect the cups the high school uses and find ways to repurpose them.

Creech could not be reached for comment about the project and future of K-Cups at the school.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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