FEW RECENT INVENTIONS are as frivolous and wasteful as the single-serving coffee maker. One brand we found washed up on the beach far away from human traffic along the outer banks of the Cape Cod National Seashore last week had five parts: the outer plastic shell, the peel-away foil lid, and a heavy paper filter sandwiched between two plastic mesh disks. All for a single cup of coffee.
For what? Are we so busy and important that we cannot spare the few extra minutes to brew a cup using one of the myriad conventional coffee machines and systems? Is our fix for caffeine (or simply a hot drink, since many of these are decaffeinated) so urgent, our narcissism so great?
It is no wonder that most of the rest of the world is skeptical or incredulous when Americans preach about air pollution, water quality, endangered species, or climate change. “Seriously?” they ask. “You want us to take responsibility for curbing unneeded garbage and waste when you proliferate senseless products like this?”
You would be doing better by the environment by pitching your single-serving coffee machine into the ocean rather than using it, adding these foul cups to the landscape or landfills one by one, drip by drip.
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THE SINGLE-SERVING coffee cup carcasses pale in numbers, of course, next to the empty plastic water bottles glistening along the beach. Aside from the underlying deceit of these things—no safer than most tap water, and astronomically more expensive—the bottles (and plastic bags, another common site on this remote stretch of sand) are deadly to sea turtles and other marine life, which mistake them for jellyfish, part of their natural diet. Once they ingest a plastic bottle, they die.
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ON MOTHER’S DAY we found more than one dozen deflated Mylar balloons along a one-mile stretch of beach, and several more scattered across the dunes in the days after. Many of them read “Happy Mother’s Day,” a sad irony given their ultimate destination, littering the surface of Mother Earth.
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