I have to laugh at the various media outlets these days. It seems like every couple of weeks there is a new contrived emergency that all of us need to drop everything and be outraged about. This month’s emergency happens to be straws, more specifically, how plastic straws are ruining our environment. This emergency de jour recently came at me not only through news outlets and social media but also live and in person.
Last weekend, I was at Lowes getting a part for my sprinkler system. I put the muddy broken piece in a plastic grocery bag, a bag that I had already used at least twice I might add. While looking for the part I needed, a clerk came up to offer help. After locating the replacement part, the clerk asked if I’d like to throw away the old part and pulled out a trash can from under a computer terminal. I said sure. The part was plastic, just like the bag it was in. I was going take it home and chuck it in my recycling cart but he was offering so why not. As soon as I threw the whole thing in the trash the man said, “You know that’s killing the earth, those bags and plastic straws They wind up in a huge plastic ball island of trash floating in the ocean.” I just rolled my eyes and walked away without a thank you for his help. I know that was bad manners but I was really just biting my tongue. I really wanted to fire back at him. I wanted to ask him to tell how are all these bags and straws ending up in the ocean. Are there people separating the straws and plastic bags from the various trash and recycling places, loading them up onto barges and hauling them off to the ocean? Do these straws and bags leap out of our trash cans and swim to the ocean much like turtles hatching from eggs on the shore? Has he personally seen this plastic floating island in the sea? Furthermore, what about other plastic items? Are they part of this giant floating plastic bag and drinking straw island?
Yes, I am being a little salty and snarky. I freely admit it. It burns me up that the mysterious ‘they’ who drums up these contrived emergencies love to pick and choose their target. Why is the current target drinking straws? Why not all plastic in general? Here’s a bigger ‘why’. Why hasn’t this mythical ‘they’ started targeting Keurig K-cup pods? Think about it about it, since becoming the must have Christmas gift of 2012, almost everyone has a Keurig machine or at least has used one. They are everywhere. Almost every waiting room from the doctor’s office to the oil change place has a Keurig machine. Many office buildings have them on each floor. Almost every hotel has a Keurig machine in every guestroom. Have you ever seen anything other than a trash (not recycling) can for these pods? Go to the coffee aisle in any supermarket, Target or Walmart and try to find a bag of coffee. The choices for bag coffee are minuscule compared to the selection of Keurig K-cups. A metric ton of these things must be getting manufactured and used annually and they are all made of plastic. Yes, K-cups can be recycled but to do it correctly it’s kind of a pain in the ass. You ‘should’ tear off the foil, wash out the grounds, then put the plastic pod in the recycle bin. How many people actually do that? What happens to those pods that don’t get the prewash and are just chucked in the recycle bin? Do they wind up on that giant island of floating plastic? I haven’t a clue. My guess is the reason you haven’t heard about how awful these things are for the environment is that no one wants to screw with the convenience of their coffee service.
For the record, I don’t think it’s stupid to encourage more environmentally friendly options. By all means, encourage, but don’t mandate and hey, random store employee, don’t judge. If there is this island of plastic floating around in the ocean you can be sure we (Americans) aren’t the only one who contributed to it. And, while we’re at it, mysterious ‘they’ don’t create an emergency over one specific thing – educate. Lastly, let me state I don’t own a Keurig because all I see is waste and expense and I drink entirely too much coffee. I would go bankrupt buying those stupid plastic pods. But, hey if you own a Keurig, drink up. You do you.