K-Cups are everywhere. Keurig’s coffee pods account for a quarter of the ground-coffee market in America, says Quartz; and The Atlantic reports that one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee machine.

But as the popularity of the K-Cup increases, so does the consumer backlash against the massive amount of waste it creates. A few months ago, a viral clip called Kill the K-Cup boosted awareness of how environmentally unfriendly the pods are. The campaign claimed that Keurig produced enough pods last year to wrap around the earth 10.5 times, but only 5% of them were recyclable. Kill the K-Cup, the video urges, before it kills our planet.

Only 5% of Keurig coffee pods are recyclable. (Photo: Flickr/Patrick Gensel)

Only 5% of Keurig coffee pods are recyclable. The company says it aims to make all pods recyclable by 2020. (Photo: Flickr/Patrick Gensel)

One person the video didn’t need to convince was John Sylvan, co-founder of Keurig and creator of the K-Cup. In a frank interview with The Atlantic, he admitted that he never expected the pods to become so widespread and that he’s uncomfortable with its environmental impact.

Looking back on his invention, amid increasing public condemnation of K-Cups as a scourge on the planet, Sylvan told me, ‘I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.’

The article also reveals that Sylvan “has some regrets” about selling his share of the company in 1997 for $50,000. Keurig is now owned by Green Mountain, who purchased it in 2006; the coffee line is responsible for most of the company’s $4.7 billion annual revenue.

The inventor of the K-Cup doesn't own one himself. (Photo: Facebook/Keurig)

The inventor of the K-Cup doesn’t own one himself. (Photo: Facebook/Keurig)

Sylvan admits that he doesn’t own a Keurig, which means “excellence” in Dutch. (He and co-founder Peter Dragone settled on that name using the simple reasoning that “everyone likes the Dutch”). But it’s not just out of principle.

“They’re kind of expensive to use,” says the inventor of the K-Cup. “Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”

And that’s the line I’m going to use next time someone tells me that they’d like to be more eco-friendly, but pods are just so convenient.

[via the Atlantic]