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September 2019
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In praise of KPB’s environmental efficiency

By Dan Pool, editor
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    Several years back I was talking with a lifelong west Pickens resident who said many of new farms out there look nice, but aren’t real farms – “not enough junk laying around.”
    He explained that when he was growing up in the 40s, no one ever threw away anything, “never knew when you might could use it again.”
    While those farmers of the past generation would probably reject the label environmentalism, their attitude perfectly exhibits the pragmatic conservation you see in groups like Keep Pickens Beautiful – “re-use is the ultimate form of recycling.”
    A centerpiece of KPB’s Great American Cleanup is recycling throughout the county. They will even  set up recycling stations at events as a community service. And dealing with others’ dirty plates is in no way glamorous. These are committed people.
    There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged about bigger  environmental issues such as the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (hint: it’s not looking good). However, it is heartening to see that in Pickens County there is a group making a difference at the grassroots level. Less waste is generated and more is recycled and that is, at least, a start.
    There is something of the Appalachian farmer in my own attitude on recycling and environment and it comes down to efficiency and conservation. Why waste future resources when we can re-use stuff we already have? I am naturally a  packrat.
    Unfortunately for me there is one small but beloved place where I have a conflict. I love the coffees that come out of the single-serving plastic pod containers often called K-Cups. They are tasty, quick and so convenient - and there is no clean-up.
    I am not the only one who has jumped on the Keurig and Tassimo bandwagon.  A  survey by the National Coffee Association found nearly 1 in 5 adults drink single-cup-brewed coffee on any given day.
    The problem has always bothered me that for every cup of great coffee, you end up with the little plastic pods they come in, which are not re-useable and difficult if not impossible to recycle -- the aluminum tops would have to separated and the used grounds washed out. 
    There is also some more advanced questions as to whether the specific plastic composition, necessary to keep the coffee fresh, is practical to recycle.
    So, essentially for every cup of my favorite java I create a small piece of plastic garbage that is somewhere on the planet forever. Whereas with a regular cup of coffee, you wind up with only a paper filter and some grounds which can be thrown out the backdoor (my kind of composting).
    So what’s the big deal about a few extra pieces of plastic? Consider this, that in 2013, 8.3 billion K-Cups were produced, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5. The number of t-discs (for the Tassimo) isn’t readily available.
    The K-Cup dilemma is just one example of how a globe altering negative impact can creep up on us.
    Conversely, KPB shows how one  group can make a positive impact and hopefully similar groups are doing equal good work in other places.
    Thanks to Keep Pickens Beautiful for their environmental efficiency.