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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, October 6, 2019

I always like to start off with good news. This one comes from a recent Resource Recycling newsletter.

“A recently released study estimates the U.S. recycling industry will have a nearly $110 billion economic impact this year.”

The study by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) included more good news. It found the recycling industry directly and indirectly has nearly 532,000 jobs with over $33 billion in wages. This took place in spite of the unprecedented market challenges it faced during the past two years when China quit taking a significant amount of our recycled materials.,

The ISRI study, conducted every two years, includes private recycling companies working with the following recycled materials: Metals, plastics, rubber, paper, textiles, glass and electronics. It included looking at recycling jobs, supplier jobs and jobs in other industries involved in recycling industry. They found direct industry jobs up 5.5%, and the induced jobs up 2.2%. So keep recycling all those materials, it not only helps save resources for future generations, it provides many jobs and also helps the economy.

Now a switch in subjects. Since most of us enjoy a morning cup of coffee — and sometimes several more during the day — I read what I thought was an interesting article about the single serving K-Cups. As you know, they are used mainly with the Keurig coffee makers which came out just a few years ago. The use of K-Cups has grown more popular than I imagined.

How popular are they? The article mentioned an average of about 10 billion of the K-Cups are used every single year — that’s a lot.

Unfortunately, due to their construction, only about 5% of the K-Cups are recyclable in most areas. That means almost all end up in the landfill. And in the landfill, it is estimated it will take from 150 to 500 years to completely decompose. Doing a little math, it looks like by the time the first ones decompose, there could be roughly 1.5 to 5 trillion more added to the landfill.

Remember — even though the figure trillion appears quite often now as our government seems to throw it out freely in our tax dollars they spend — that is no small number. Best example I’ve seen is that a million seconds is 11 days ago, a billion seconds is 37 years ago, and a trillion seconds is 37,000 years ago — that’s a while ago or about 30,000 years before man is believed to have started writing, or making cave drawings, to record history.

To eliminate this problem with the K-Cups not decomposing, some companies are working to develop a single serving coffee container that will break down much quicker; weeks or months instead of hundreds of years. One such company has tested a cup made from plant-based materials. While there was no change in the coffee’s taste by using it, it decomposed in just 12 weeks and its residue can be added to normal soil.

The use of such cups could significantly reduce the environmental impact the current pods are having. Let’s hope they, as well as the other companies, are successful in developing such an alternative.

Till next week, do have a great one...

--Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432.or email

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