Why the man who helped launch the coffee pod revolution now 'feels bad' about it

Keurig Green Mountain made $US4.7 billion in revenue last year.

Much of that money came thanks to K-Cups, the coffee-in-a-pod system invented by cofounder John Sylvan.

He knew he had a hit on his hands when he was figuring out the pod mechanism back in the ’90s.

“It’s like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance,” he tells the Atlantic.

But Syvlan, who sold his stake in the company for $US50,000 back in 1997, doesn’t own the machine.

“I don’t have one,” he says. “They’re kind of expensive to use … plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”

Yet the mix of ease and addictiveness has made Keurig and its peers massively — and quickly — successful:

In 2008 only 1.8 million coffee pod machines were sold in the US. In 2013 11.6 million were sold.

• A 2013 poll found that 1 in 3 Americans have a single-serve coffeemaker either at home or at work.

• If all the K-cups that were sold in 2014 were laid end-to-end, the Atlantic reports, it would be enough to circle the Earth more than 10 times.

“[Coffee pods are] the poster-child dilemma of the American economy,” beverage consultant James Ewell said in an interview. “People want convenience, even if it’s not sustainable.”

So Sylvan’s creation is both a blessing and a curse.

The product is everywhere.

And its waste is, too, thanks to the fact that the cups are almost impossible to recycle.

“I feel bad sometimes that I ever [invented the K-Cup],” Sylvan said.

Today, Sylvan’s work is very much environmental — he runs ZonBak, a solar company that claims to make the most cost-efficient solar panel in the world.

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