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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Keurig settles recyclable pod class action for $10 million

Keurig must print disclaimers anywhere that it claims that its single-serve coffee pods are recyclable, as part of a $10 million settlement.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc. will pay $10 million to settle with a class of plaintiffs who claimed the company misleads consumers with claims that its plastic single-serve coffee pods are recyclable.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland approved a $10 million settlement plus a total of $6,000 in incentives for two plaintiffs who actively aided in gathering documents for discovery during the litigation process. The plaintiffs filed the consumer class action against the single-serve coffee giant years ago claiming the “recyclable” labeling on plastic coffee pods is false and misleading. 

The class claimed municipal recycling facilities are not properly equipped to handle the coffee pods, which are small and easily contaminated with foil and food waste. The plaintiffs said the coffee pods often end up in landfills as there are limited markets to reuse them or convert them into reusable material, making them an environmental hazard.

Claims included violations of Massachusetts’ Consumer Protection Act, breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment, misrepresentation, declaratory relief and violations of California's Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law.

Households who submit a claim with proof of payment will receive 35 cents for every 10 pods purchased, with a minimum payment of $6 regardless of quantity purchased to a maximum of $36. 

Keurig — formerly known as Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. — will also start placing a disclaimer on products to read “Check Locally — Not Recycled in Many Communities." It must be placed beside any verbiage that the pods are recyclable, including on boxes and cartons and on Keurig's website. The settlement sets the minimum standards to ensure that the qualifying statement is reasonably visible anywhere it appears.

Gilliam gave preliminary approval of the settlement agreement this past July. In their revised settlement motion filed in November 2022, the plaintiffs said, “By requiring changes to the labels and advertising of the challenged products, and by making this substantial fund available, the settlement provides an immediate, significant and positive result for the class. 

“In turn, Keurig will receive a release of all claims that were or could have been raised in the complaint relating to its labeling, marketing and advertising of the challenged products as recyclable. This settlement was reached after several years of contentious litigation, extensive discovery and rigorous and informed negotiations between the parties and their experienced class action counsel in a process that was overseen by a seasoned, neutral mediator.”

Any unclaimed settlement money will be donated to the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, which will take 75% of unclaimed funds. Consumer Reports, Inc., a nonprofit consumer protection organization, will take the remaining 25% of unclaimed funds.

The attorneys requested and received $3 million for fees and $568,180 in total costs. 

"We are pleased the court granted final approval of the settlement, and are proud of the great result achieved in this case on behalf of consumers across the country," class attorney Howard Hirsch said in a statement Monday. "We also hope it sends a message and deters other companies from misleading consumers about the environmental attributes and recyclability of their single use plastic products.”

Keurig spokesperson Katie Gilroy said "clearly communicating to consumers how to recycle our K-Cup pods where accepted is a responsibility that we take seriously," adding that "while we believe our marketing and labeling is truthful and accurate, we agreed to a negotiated settlement that will result in a modification of our existing recyclability disclaimer on our packaging."

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Categories / Consumers, Environment

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