I try to recycle, be aware of the products I’m buying, what companies I give money to, and notice my ecological footprint a little better. Why? Well, besides the fact that I live on this expletive planet, I can’t really think of anything. That being said, I don’t think my acts of personal ecological pride will accumulate too much. While this may sound hypocritical, why don’t you wash your hands before you start pointing fingers? We are all raised to be hypocrites, and whether it is more nature or nurture is moot. Every day is a constant battle with hypocrisy. Take for example John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig disposable coffee cup. While many see it as another huge waste of plastic, he saw need for an improvement in the office coffee drinking business. Now he holds his invention in regret. After selling the idea to Green Mountain they have turned it into a cigarette for coffee and they have ignored any of Sylvan’s suggestions to improve it.
Now you may, and by may I mean probably most definitely have, seen one of these things. My parents just bought two and I almost flipped my shit until they busted out the reusable cup for instant coffee. Now it’s just a fancy water heater so I can enjoy my perfectly fine instant coffee. Still anytime I want hot water I need to take out one of those little plastic cups. And every time I find myself wondering if it matters? Is all this plastic waste really hurting? Yes, and No… it’s complicated. Have a coffee.
For many the plastic waste is irrelevant because the machine itself saves on power and water use over time. But this seems like trading one pollutant for another, like instead of throwing my burger wrapper out the left side of the car, I will throw my soda cup out the right side. It is still a waste one way or another however you look at it. You may be saving on electricity but then you have an entire trash barrel full of Keurig cups at the end of the week. The cups themselves are technically recyclable, but only if you take the time to get the metal lid off the plastic and if you had to do that it would completely defeat the purpose of saving time with a coffee machine. Again the Keurig is trading pollution for time. You get an extra few minutes to add to your day plus a coffee boost, but those minutes had to come from somewhere. And in the great universal churn of energy and matter nothing is free.
It was Egg Studios in Canada that made a viral video pointing out the K-cup plastic pollution that they have seen in their work place. Plastic pollution, especially including micro-plastics in the environment are going to be around for a very long time. We need to start actively lessening our plastic use. It will take more than socially responsible individuals. It will take globally responsible corporations and governments as well. There is a massive ecological debt being piled up and we may soon find ourselves on the bottom of it. Recently, the city of Hamburg in Germany decided to ban the product entirely and get a head start on a plastic free future.
For the pessemists who say our addiction is too great, there may be an alternative drug to ween ourselves off of plastic. Hemp plastic and other materials are being designed as eco-safe alternatives to plastic. And who knows what other scientific discoveries may help us in the near future?
Until then, reuse, recycle, and research how to keep plastic use down.