It all began with a visit to a son’s house.
He made us delicious coffee from his machine and casually asked how often we used the coffee pod machine he had given us.
When we revealed it was reserved for special occasions, he advised us to make it more accessible.
And that’s when a tiny thing became a huge problem.
We took the machine out of a cupboard and left it out on our kitchen counter.
Making pod coffee became easier than the instant version that previously had left us satisfied.
In next to no time, our taste buds demanded the superior taste of coffee from pods and we were faced with the challenge of what to do with the used ones.
Even with my love for creating things using recyclables, I realised I would soon be drowning in pods if I didn’t get help.
I dutifully did some research and discovered the company that sold our coffee machine had a special recycling program in place. We could post the used pods to be recycled. And we could send them free of charge. Awesome.
I saved the little pods diligently, building up a big enough supply to justify mailing them. I had about three large containers full of the little plastic pods when I decided to revisit the internet page with the sending details.
Much to my horror, the recycling program had been stopped due to an over -demand for the service. It was becoming too expensive for the company and no alternative was offered.
RECKLESS RECYCLING – WHAT TO DO NOW?
A few people told me it was fine to put the little pods in our recycling bin for the local council to deal with.
The temptation to empty those containers into the bin and forget about the issue was almost overwhelming.
However, I’m a bit of a recycling fanatic and fully understand how placing the wrong things in the recycling bin can lead to a contaminated load – possibly resulting in an entire truckload of recyclables ending up in landfill.
Australians produce about 50 million tonnes of waste each year and around 20 million tonnes of garbage makes its way to landfill sites each year.
So it was back to the drawing board, or at least the recycling research.
Each local area has its own regulations regarding what can be successfully recycled. I studied our local council guidelines to discover that the little pods can be recycled, but they have to be empty.
It’s a bit of a process. You have to stick the tip of a knife in the little hole (pierced by the machine) in the covering paper and then cut through the paper to detach it from the pod.
Next, the plastic disc under the paper has to be removed and rinsed.
Then, the coffee has to be scraped out of the pods, which you then rinse and stack to place in your bin.
The coffee can go in the compost, or directly on the garden. I have to admit my plants are looking pretty hyperactive these days. 🙂
It’s not such a bad weekly task. But when you’ve been saving them up for months! I had hundreds of pods to prepare for recycling.
Throwing them away to end up in landfill was not an option. I knew the guilt of that would plague me for much longer than the tedious task of emptying the pods would take. It took hours. And then more hours on other days.
All the while I was thinking about the warehouses filled to the brim with rubbish the country doesn’t know what to do with since China put a ban on accepting much of the recyclables they previously had.
Can’t blame China. They have their own garbage issues to deal with. One has to wonder why the powers that be didn’t have the foresight to see this coming and spend the money on our own recycling centres.
Anyway, the recommendation is we continue to recycle while a solution is found. It still beats contributing to our landfill issues.
So I attacked the task in bursts, thinking it may make up for past transgressions before I became informed about our rampaging rubbish.
I would not entertain the thought that even doing the right thing gave no guarantee the little pods would end up where they should to be recycled.
I sent text updates (with pictures) to friends who all thought I had lost my mind. When I was done, I sent more pictures to celebrate the end of what I was calling my coffee pod penance. One friend asked if I was doing penance from past lives as well.
The end of the penance called for celebration. I marked the occasion with – a cup of coffee. I really wanted wine or even champagne. An easily recyclable glass bottle and a cork to add to my craft supplies. But it was only 11 am.
REFUSING TO MAKE REFUSE
As with all of life’s challenges, there are choices.
I could opt to stop drinking coffee. Some say it is bad for you. I say denying me my coffee fix could be more damaging.
I could retrain my tastebuds to once again love instant coffee. Then I only have to worry about the glass jar that contains it.
I could make plunger coffee, getting fresh beans from the grocery in paper bags. Even less waste there and it tastes delicious. The problem is the second cup is always cold and the making process takes longer.
I could trade in my pod machine for one that accepts reusable pods. Then the machine could end up in landfill, or in the hands of someone not quite as determined to recycle.
I know a few people who refuse to make refuse. They are happy living a very ‘green’ life which leaves only a tiny footprint on our environment. I admire them.
I also know many who have given up on all attempts to watch their environmental footprint because the problem seems insurmountable. They resent making sacrifices when so many others don’t, including huge companies that do untold damage with their pollution and rape of resources.
They resent the loaded comments claiming if they really loved animals, they would stop eating meat. If they really cared about the environment, they shouldn’t buy things made from wood because it kills trees. Or plastic because it’s killing the world. Or glass because it never breaks down.
All the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ creates resentment and then apathy.
KEEP IT EASY
I like the middle road. The one where you can still drink your favourite coffee and do your little bit to help lessen the impact it makes on the world. The one where you can eat meat and still show your love for all animals by being mindful of its source and lobbying for better treatment of the animals.
There is plenty of room on the middle road. If we can attract more people there, by judging less and encouraging more, it could be the shortcut to a better environment. The trick is to keep it easy. If the majority of the world’s population did their little bit to improve things it would have more impact than a handful of people sacrificing just about everything.
COFFEE POD PROJECTS
Technically, coffee pods are 100 per cent recyclable. This is good news when you consider Australians are consuming more than three million pods a day and this number is going up.
Each capsule contains a number of different plastics depending on the brand. The plastic can be injection moulded or extruded into new plastic products, such as eski liners and suitcase insulation. Some capsules can also be smelted down for new aluminium products.
As with many recyclables, the issue is more about collection than conversion. It costs a lot of money to get the pods from homes to the recycling plants.
A little bit of effort in return for enjoying the convenience and taste of pod coffee is a good start to ensuring your environmental footprint doesn’t become a huge crater.
I will be sharing some wacky pod projects soon.
They are also great little containers for seedlings and succulents and you can fill them with water to make ice cubes.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.