Tag Archives: recycling

Coffee Pods

coffee pods in drawer-photo-d-stewartKeurig coffee – wonderful. The K-cup – not so much. Concern about the plastic coffee pods started almost as soon as the Keurig coffee maker came on the market. Each one is very small. But add up one household’s consumption, then another’s, in a week, a month. Doesn’t take long to have a mountain of them.

Coffee pod manufacturers responded. You can now buy many types of pods packaged various ways. They are recyclable and compostable, in part or whole. But you have to read the box, and the pods.

Left pod marked “w” and middle “6” are not recyclable, right one marked “5” is recyclable

The plastic casing is the problem. That casing seals in the coffee, thereby keeping it fresh. Many were not made of recyclable plastic. Some still aren’t. Recycling services that I know of accept only numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 plastics. So those marked No. 6, like Tim Horton’s, still go in the garbage. And pods without a number – who knows? Again, garbage.

An increasing number now are marked No. 5. So recyclable. But, despite what the box says, not with coffee grounds still in them. You have to separate the plastic from the coffee and filter bag.

How to separate coffee pods

remove-foil-lid-photo-d-stewart1. Hook your fingernail in the little hole in the foil cover and pull it off.

2. Squeeze pod upside-down over compost container to loosen coffee

3. Dig your finger into pod and pull out as much coffee as you can

filter-removal-photo-d-stewart4. Holding pod in one hand, grab a bit of netting with thumb and forefinger of other hand and pull until it rips. Then pull all the way around until the coffee and netting are detached from the plastic pod.

5. Rinse plastic pod well and try to pull off leftover netting.

It’s not easy, but you  get better at it with practice. And sometimes, when you see you’ve grabbed a non-recyclable pod, you say a fervent hallelujah as you toss it! I found a tool that separates the pods (see Amazon box below). Might be easier on the fingers.

Compostable Pods

compostable-pods-photo-d-stewartThese are much easier to deal with. A ring and filter made of plant-based materials and paper lid,  the whole thing will compost as is – eventually. But they still come to you in packaging. Either individually wrapped in plastic or grouped in a foil bag. The foil bags say “rinse and reuse”. But I haven’t figured out anything to reuse even one for.

composting-coffee-pods-photo-d-stewartMy preferred choice so far is the individually wrapped compostable pod. Jumping Bean, from Newfoundland (available on Amazon.ca and excellent coffee!) The plastic wrapper probably isn’t recyclable but at least it’s little.

Reusable pods

Obviously, reusable is best. Soon after buying our Keurig, and realizing the amount of garbage produced by the pods, I bought a reusable-pod-photo-d-stewartrefillable pod. What a misery! You must replace one whole mechanism with the other, so it’s not easy to switch back and forth. My refillable one went to the back of the drawer where it sits in silent witness to the traffic in easier, but wasteful, coffee pods.

There are refillable pods available that look easier to use (see Amazon link below). Maybe I’ll try again!

Go Paperless!

Utility companies, governments, banks – every agency that sends us bills or statements advertising flyer for "go paperless"keeps telling us to make it easier for ourselves, save trees, go green, go paperless. Make it easier for whom, save what trees?

I’m going to want a paper copy of those statements anyway. So I’m going to have to print them. So it will be paper I buy instead of paper bought by the sender. Same number of trees die.

It would save those companies and agencies the costs of postage. And if I were promised that those savings would be passed along to consumers in the form of lower rates or rebate, I might do it. I need something to compensate me for the time I would have to spend opening the emails and printing them before I stick them in my file.

Paperless necessities vs. junk paper sprees

I also would need a guarantee that the useless, unwanted, paper-wasting promotions and special offers that I receive in the mail from those selfsame companies and agencies would also stop.

magazines and 'offers' sent by mailThese photographs are of the unsolicited, unwanted, tree- and time-consuming junk that came in my mail and in my newspaper on one day. A letter from Bell telling me about their wonderful internet provider offer. I’ve received hundreds of these from Bell in the past couple years. Each one requires postage, each one contributes to the death of a tree.

Each one of these missives requires me to: 1, open it, 2, remove the plastic window from the envelope, 3, tear off the parts with my name to be put in the shredder and 4, put the rest in the recycling bin. Then I have to bundle all this unwanted crap in a tidy way and put it in the blue bin. So that big polluting trucks can pick it up and take to a recycling facility to do whatever it is they flyers from one small newspaperactually do with McDonald’s coupons, pizza offers and letters from Bell Canada.

Notice the magazine in the photo above? It’s Glow, a beauty magazine from Shopper’s Drug Mart. I don’t want it, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t subscribe. I get it free because I have an Optimum card. The card gives me a benefit – points that get me free stuff. The first time I got the magazine – a “gift issue” – I thought, ok, they’re just fishing for subscribers. I won’t get another one. Next month, there it is. Take the hint: if I wanted it, I’d subscribe. I signed up for a points card, not a magazine.

No worry about using paper for promotions

If I wanted new products or services from Bell or Rogers or my bank, I would contact them. I’m already a customer! If Bell, Rogers or my bank wants to save their time and money by not sending me the one piece of paper that I actually need from them – my monthly statement – they can also stop cluttering up my mail box and life with junk I don’t want. And I don’t want emails from them either. I can get rid of emails faster than paper. But  I don’t want to clutter my inbox or mind with junk either.

If companies and agencies are concerned about saving trees, condense your statements so that a standard one fits on one sheet of paper. Bell is bad for this; the layout unnecessarily uses 2 double-sided sheets. Also, quit sending junk. That would really save trees.

Tilting at Windmills

My mother had trash compacting and recycling down to a science cans of food in cupboardbefore the words were part of our lexicon. After she opened a can, she removed the label, rinsed it, then removed the other end of it. Then she put it on the floor and stomped it flat before putting it in the garbage. The label was kept with other scrap paper and used as tinder for campfires. No bottle or jar was put in the garbage unrinsed. Few were put in the garbage at all. They were used for storing things or kept in the back shed for future use as storage containers.

I don’t know what she did with food scraps. She didn’t grow a garden so wouldn’t have composted them. But she hated smelly garbage so I can’t imagine she put them directly in the bin. Years later, I’ve seen her back stiffen when she’s seen someone scraping leftovers into the garbage container. Our output for the garbage man would be one partial can or a small bag. She looked with horror at the huge bags and bins full outside other houses.

full recycling binThis is to explain why I was amazed at her reaction when recycling blue boxes came to her town. I thought she’d be all over that programme since she’d been doing it her whole life. But, no. She was furious. “I’ll throw out anything I want, any way I want. Who are they to tell me I have to take a label off?” She got irate when I laughed at her. I said “Mom, you’ve taken labels off as long as I’ve known you.” “Well, what I do with my garbage is my own business.” Eventually, she and my dad got to enjoy the recycling routine of sorting and bagging every week. But she still said no town council had any business telling her what she could and couldn’t do with her garbage.

Hazards of Windmills

Windmills in AmsterdamI thought of this when I read a recent column by Sun Media’s Christina Blizzard on the hazards of wind turbines. What is the big deal about windmills? It’s not like it’s a brand new, untested idea. The premise of harnessing wind to make power has been around a very long time. It’s not like nuclear power generation, for instance – something that is comparatively new with unknown risks.

There are risks to windmills – to birds certainly, to human psychic rhythms perhaps. Some find a sea of offshore windmills aesthetically unpleasing. Perhaps, but I can’t imagine a sea of offshore drilling rigs would be a whole lot prettier. We know for sure that rigs aren’t safe for birds either.

So why the big furor over windmills? Also from QMI, in our paper on modern wind turbinesthe same day, was an article from the solar power people asking farmers with solar grids not make their complaints public. The spokeswoman basically said the industry has enough problems with government (especially the Conservative members) and the public, and they don’t need the farmers fueling those fears.

Is it because these forms of energy production are tagged with the environmentalist label? Although both sun and wind are perhaps the oldest forms of energy known to humanity, somehow they’re seen as “new” and “lefty” and part of some conspiracy to “tell us what to do.” It seems to me similar to the American fears about government provision of health care; some weird attitude of “I’d rather pay huge premiums or go without health insurance because then I’m free!”

Rare Earth Minerals

Christina Blizzard talks about the people of China who must live near the tailing lakes of the mining of the rare earth minerals used in the computers for windmills. They can’t eat food from the nearby contaminated land or rivers. Adults and children have developed strange illnesses and cancers. Yes, this is a real and tragic problem that needs addressing.

However, she lost me at: “Every time I see a new turbine I’ll think of those children dying horrific deaths. And I’ll hang my head in shame at the environmental disaster we’ve created.” And so should we all. However, I Man with electronic waste at recycling depot in Chinahope she isn’t so busy tweeting and emailing that message that she wears her smart phone out. The market for rare earths is in all computer production, not just wind turbines. And rare earths are an important component in cell phones. So every time she uses her Blackberry, iPad, laptop or desk top, I hope she’s also thinking of those children in China.

I also hopes she thinks about the ones in China, Ghana and elsewhere in the Third World where our cell phones and computers Kids recycling electronics in Ghana dump, from PBSare dumped when we want to upgrade to the new version. People there are getting sick and dying from recycling our electronic garbage. That’s also a really big problem, and one that just has to do with us wanting the newest bestest toys. Work is needed to improve safety for the environment and people affected by wind turbines. But at least they are meant to lessen reliance on non-renewable and ozone-layer depleting fuel sources.