K-Cup Recycling: Toss the Grounds in your Garden and Turn the Cups into Seed Starters

K-Cup Recycling: Toss the Grounds in your Garden and Turn the Cups into Seed Starters

My husband bought us a Keurig coffee maker for Christmas. If you know me (as he clearly does!), it was the perfect gift for me.

I have such a short attention span, I get bored with a coffee flavor before I even finish a pot. So this way I can have three cups of coffee, each a different flavor if I so choose.

I also tend to drink erratic amounts of coffee each day, depending on how busy I am, how distracted I get, or how cold it is outside so often a pot would sit all day until I finally threw it out.

So I really love the Keurig and I think when all is said and done, we will waste less coffee using it, but it really bothered me to just toss the used K-cups in the trash.

I hate to throw away anything that might be able to be used. I hate waste. So I decided at the very least, I would empty the coffee grounds out of the plastic K-cups and start saving the grounds to throw on our garden this spring.

Coffee grounds improve the quality of your garden soil. High in nitrogen, a sprinkling of coffee grounds in the soil benefits crops such as leafy greens, squash and tomatoes specifically.

The decomposing coffee grounds also create beneficial fungus that fights off other non-beneficial mold and fungal colonies in the soil.

The grounds also help repel slugs and improve the texture of the soil to attract earthworms. In short, coffee grounds are good for your garden!

recycling k-cups for the garden

So I carefully started spooning the spent grounds out of each cup ... and imagine my surprise to find a very fine mesh filter inside!

To those of you familiar with the whole Keurig/K-Cup thing, I'm sure this is not news, but remember, until this past Christmas I had never even seen a K-Cup before.

Now the wheels started turning. I could plant seeds in them!

The mesh would allow water to drain but keep the soil from leaking out... and there's even a little hole in the bottom of each cup for drainage made by the machine when it brews the coffee, making them THE perfect seed starter containers!

Now I was on a mission! I called my husband at work (where they have a Keurig as well) and asked him to set up a cardboard box with a sign on it for everyone to recycle their cups and then he could bring them home for me!

(As an FYI, that was met with less than the enthusiasm that I would have hoped for from him, but this is the man who last year brought home trash bags full of empty coffee canisters so I could make a set of these cute Chicken Feed Supplement Canisters, so I felt confident that lugging home a small cardboard box of K-cups was far less of an imposition and he would come through for me.)

And he did.

In the meantime, I started scooping out the used grounds and rinsing out the cups I had (and yes, I did go through the trash and fish out all the additional cups I could find). I then needed to find a tray to hold them.

Really anything will do and the beauty of this is you can go small-scale and grow just a few cups of seeds in a Tupperware container or even on a small plate or cake pan, or use a cookie sheet or large plastic tray and grow them in bulk.

I decided to start off small and use a plastic organic spinach container with a lid, since I hated to throw that out as well if I could use it. With the lid, it made a perfect 'greenhouse' to hold in moisture.

What you Need to make a K-Cup Seed Starter System

Empty, rinsed out K-Cups (coffee only, the tea cups don't have the filters, as I discovered)
A tray or container with a cover ( or some plastic wrap)
Potting soil
Coffee grounds
Small spoon
Fine point Sharpie
Spray bottle with water

I first labeled each K-cup with the type of seeds I would be planting using the Sharpie.

Then it was a simple job to fill each cup with some soil (I stirred some of the spent coffee grounds into the potting soil first and then sprinkled the rest over our garden).

Next I pushed a few seeds in to each K-Cup, covered the seeds with dirt, and then set the cups on small stones set in the bottom of the tray for good drainage.

-scoop some potting soil/coffee grounds into each cup-
-push 3-4 seeds into each cup-
starting seeds in k-cups
-set your cups on small stones in your tray or pan-
-water the cups and then cover with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect-
-these covered plastic spinach containers work perfectly, as you can see-
After a quick watering, I set the top of the container in place and I was ready to set my K-Cup seed sprouting tray in a sunny window to sprout.

I misted the soil a few times a day to keep it moist. In just a few days, I already had some clover sprouting!

Safety Side Note for anyone questioning using plastic to start seeds (although many seed starter trays are plastic as well)

Keurig’s website addresses the BPA concern with the following statement:

“K-Cup® and Vue® packs do not contain BPA and are constructed using FDA-approved food safe materials. We also use FDA-approved food safe materials in our K-Cup® and Vue® brewing systems, and neither system contains BPA within its water paths (as of January 1, 2010 for our K-Cup® system).” (http://www.keurig.com/social-responsibility)

If you're still concerned, you can make seed starter cups from toilet tissue and paper towel rolls, read more about that HERE

Or here are some more ideas for repurposed seed starter cups.

Don't you just LOVE recycling/upcycling/repurposing?

This article is featured over at MSN Lifestyle and Good Housekeeping.


  1. This takes some of the guilt away from using all of those little plastic cups. Thanks.

    1. It sure does Chrissy. I personally would never have bought the Keurig, but I have to say that I also end up reheating less coffee in the microwave, since I can brew just a half cup (and I"m so cheap, I save the K-Cup and use it a second time to brew the other half cup!) at a time so I gets drunk before it gets cold.

  2. This is a great idea, and good for you for coming up with it. Can you buy those little filters that fit in the machines there like we can here? Wonder way to save the landfills.


  3. Cool idea!

    But did you know you can buy a reusable K-cup? Parents one of those as well, but the cups are so expensive and wasteful! One of the first things my mom did was buy a reusable cup that she can put coffee grounds into. Just search for it on Amazon and a bunch of options come up!

    1. I didn't when I wrote this but I do now! I'm so new to the whole Keurig experience! Still learning...Thanks! I'm off to find one.

    2. Walgreen's sells the reusable cups in their "as seen on tv" section. There are 2 in a pack for $9.99.

    3. Walgreen's sells the reusable cups in their "as seen on tv" section. There are 2 in a pack for $9.99.

  4. Fabulous idea. I have plenty of those kcups and seeds ready to plant. Last year I did it in a muffin tin, but without the hole to drain - it didn't work so well.

  5. The new Recycle A Cup cutter helps you cut and separate your used Keurig K-Cup packs for recycling or reuse! Visit www.recycleacup.com and www.facebook/recycleacup.

  6. I bought a set of those at Walgreens because it kills me to throw away all of those k cups. In every cup of coffee that we've made with them, there's a fine layer of debris (I'd say it's coffee grounds, but much finer). It's not that big of a deal to me, but my husband won't use the reusable cups (but if I make him a cup of coffee, I use them and he doesn't know the difference lol). So I think in his case, it's psychological. I know Kuerig makes reusable cup, idk if they are any better or not. Definitely worth a try, maybe other hubbies won't be as picky as mine :-)