A new frontier in "alternative fuels" for cement kilns has opened up. A LaFarge cement plant in British Columbia has begun burning used plastic single-serving Keurig coffee cups, otherwise known as "K-Cups."
The cups aren't recyclable because they're a mixture of coffee grounds, paper filter, plastic cup and foil top that can't be efficiently separated.
The plant's manager says that the cups are "becoming more and more of a component of our waste steam." A chain delivers the spent cups in large bins. in 2014, over 80,000 pounds, or 1. 4 million, of them were burned at the plant.
Of course, LaFarge claims that the cups are "completely combusted." No mention of the increase in Dioxins/Furans, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons, or other carcinogens created when the plastic is burned and complete combustion isn't do complete.
K-cups are just the latest piece of "unrecyclable plastic" to be added to the waste stream pouring into cement plants all over the planet. Although the use of hazardous waste as fuel has declined since the 1990's, the use of "industrial wastes" has soared as plants try to find free or subsidized sources of fuel to take the place of coal. Fuel costs are as much as a third of the operational expense of running a cement plant.
Although this new trend hasn't been embraced by Midlothian's three cement plants yet (as far as we know), the permits for TXI and Holcim allow the burning of plastics (along with a host of other industrial wastes), so it's conceivable a K-Cup bonfire could be coming to a kiln near you soon.
A report in February by the group As You Sow, specifically identified the food industry as a large generator of unrecyclable plastics. And one of the biggest culprits it spotlighted was the K-Cup, of which 9.8 billion were produced in 2014 alone. That's enough to circle the globe ten times with the small plastic shells. The Cup's waste is so ubiquitous that it's creator is now said to regret he ever invented it.
One media outfit began using the Cups but then "very quickly realized that this packaging was a problem." So Egg Studios produced a short "Cloverfield" parody where the plastic cups become the weapons of choice for an alien invasion. It's called "Kill the K-Cup.