Cup Hero, a New Innovation that Makes Disposable Coffee Pods Recyclable

Cup Hero coffee pod recycling

In July of 2020, Connor Feeney watched a family member make their morning cup of coffee with a disposable coffee pod. When the spent coffee pod was thrown into the garbage, he asked himself if that was the only option. As he pulled out a kitchen knife and cut the pod, it was clear that all of the components within the coffee pod are made of recyclable or compostable materials. However, it is also clear that the process of separating the plastic, foil, and organic components is not easy. Everything inside the pod is tightly bound together and it needs to be separated for proper recycling. It can be an impossible task without making an absolute mess. 

There has to be a solution for this, right?

Connor looked online for solutions and found some, but none of them did the complete job. Some successfully separate out the plastic cup or the foil, but each solution inevitably left at least one component bound to another. In order to be completely recyclable, all of the various, mixed materials need to be completely separated. Connor’s engineering background trained him well to invent his own solution called the Cup Hero.

This convenient way of making coffee is having a monumental impact on the amount of plastic waste entering our landfills and oceans.

Bringing the Invention to Life

After several months of tinkering, designing, prototyping and piloting, the vision for a tool started to take shape. All the while, Connor worked to research pod usage and the need for a solution. According to the National Coffee Association, 40% of coffee drinkers owned a single-cup coffee-brewing machine in 2020. In 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that Keurig Dr. Pepper (KDP) sold 10.5 billion disposable coffee pods in the 2015 fiscal year. This is the last known time a metric like this was disclosed, but increases in KDP quarterly earnings would suggest that the number of pods sold has likely increased over time. That is a lot of coffee pods! This convenient way of making coffee is having a monumental impact on the amount of plastic waste entering our landfills and oceans.

Introducing the Cup Hero!

While it is easy to use disposable coffee pods, it is not nearly as easy to recycle them. It is the mission of Cup Hero to address this issue at the grassroots level with an easy-to-use kitchen tool called the Cup Hero.  In under 10 seconds, the Cup Hero completely separates the plastic cup, aluminum foil lid, paper filter, coffee grounds, and internal plastic ring in such a way that every component can be sorted, processed, and recycled. The Cup Hero’s primary objectives are to reduce the amount of single-use, disposable plastic that enters our landfills, empower individuals to adopt sustainable practices, and spotlight a significant environmental issue that millions of people contribute to each day – often without realizing the larger impact.

Where can you get the Cup Hero?

The Cup Hero team will be running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter this fall. Visit to see more! Share your email address at the top of their website and they will keep you in the know on product launch details and free giveaways. You can also follow along on Instagram and Facebook! @TheCupHero

Just a Guy Trying to Save the Planet

While we all get by with a little help from our friends, the Cup Hero project has primarily been a solo venture by inventor, Connor Feeney. Connor has prior work experience as a quality engineer, product design engineer, and an innovation analyst within the medical device industry. Connor has a network of mentors and connections that span the various disciplines needed to bring an innovation like the Cup Hero to life (manufacturing, marketing, intellectual property, distribution, and finance to name a few). He has a masters degree in engineering from Northwestern University and in high school won the coveted senior superlative award “Most Likely to Save the Planet.”

Tara LaSalla

Tara is the owner of Green Me Locally which was established in 2010 with a mission to bring awareness to the surrounding community about local eco-friendly businesses, events and sustainable living. She is also a business profitability consultant and specializes in helping companies lower their environmental impact, do good things for people and the planet and become more profitable at the same time. Tara helps companies create simple, sustainable solutions and become totally green while still increasing their profits. Her core belief is that we only have one planet, so it is our obligation to start making changes for the sake of our health and the health of future generations. Tara is known for creating easy solutions for post-consumer waste and the conservation of natural resources. Her clients are inspired and empowered to lead the way to a healthier tomorrow. Tara currently resides in St. Petersburg, FL where she is an active community leader in the form of environmental and marine conservation and education. Her work with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Tampa Bay Watch and other local organizations continues to inspire those around her to protect our natural resources. She holds true to one of Mahatma Gandhi's most famous principles: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

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