Phil Drapeau, senior vice president of Future Coffee Systems at Keurig, says partnering with Delica was a way to accelerate the timeline on research Keurig has been doing for years. “I think at this point it’s been for four to five years that we’ve been working on this process,” Drapeau says. “Working with Delica really allowed us to focus on adapting the technology for the North American consumer, to accelerate and drive development.”

Environmental Benefits

Photograph: Keurig

Standard, non-compostable K-Cups are tossed out, which creates an environmental problem. But the benefits of the K-Round aren’t just in removing a potential pollutant from the environment, or the carbon footprint of plastic manufacturing. There are some real benefits from cultivating the seaweed or algae needed to make the new K-Rounds, according to Eleftheria Roumeli, assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute.

“The algae is photosynthetic, so it’s uptaking CO2,” Roumeli says. “That’s why there’s so much incentive right now. The US government alone has given I don’t know how many millions of dollars for algae cultivation, because it’s such a great carbon sequestration mechanism.” The natural process of cultivating algae for purposes like the K-Round increases the amount of carbon captured from the atmosphere. “It’s a really great option, because the algae is a natural carbohydrate that when it decomposes in the environment, there is no problem. Scientifically, it’s not novel, but practically, it’s kind of important that we do it.”

There could be problems down the road if people end up dumping too many K-Rounds or coffee grounds into a specific area, like a backyard. Roumeli says that just like using too much fertilizer or bio char, accumulating too much in one area could disturb ecosystems. But this would still be better than the current situation.

“Definitely the benefits are absolutely outweighing the negatives,” Roumeli says. “One of the best things is that you have something that is now renewable in your lifetime.” However, she warns that companies need to do studies before deciding where they will cultivate algae, as it needs to be in harmony with the local environment.

Keurig says it will be releasing both products to broader audiences after fine-tuning them with some customer feedback. The Keurig Alta and the K-Rounds will enter into a beta test this fall, which you can sign up for here.


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