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The Recyclist: It's not that much of a grind

February 16, 2010 |  7:25 am
Filters3

Over the last two weeks, I've repeatedly found myself standing in front of the garbage with something -- the Styrofoam tray that held a flotilla of chicken breasts, the diet Pepsi cup from my husband's drive-thru lunch, a crumple of tin foil used to reheat a polenta-and-sausage appetizer -- and wondering: Can this be recycled? Or is it trash? And how can I "precycle" -- a nifty little concept I just learned about -- for next time?

And then I just want to ignore it all and go watch "Damages." (I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth.)

Instead, I rinse all these objects off, put them in the recycling bin, make a mental note to call the city to determine their recyclable-ness, and offer up a silent apology to the city employee stuck sorting through my recycling.

Here's one thing I know I can do. Swap out paper coffee filters for a reusable coffee filter:

The pros: No more coffee filters going into the garbage. And if you shop carefully -- see below -- you will ultimately save money on paper filters.

The cons: If you drink coffee at the pace I do, you need two or three so that you always have a clean one at the ready. And the reusable filters are made of plastic, although the ones I purchased reportedly are fully recyclable, and one of them claims to offer a lifetime replacement guarantee. (For kicks, I am keeping the receipt.) 

The caveats: Decide whether you prefer a cone-shaped filter, or a basket one, and then stick to it when you buy your next coffeemaker, so you won't need to spring for new perma-filters all over again. And shop around. The prices on these baskets can vary wildly, something I found out the hard way: Amazon.com sold three basket filters for the same price I paid for one. Another option would be a washable and fully recyclable hemp coffee filter.

I'm sure that it would be much, much greener to go the route of the glass or steel French coffee press, with no filters, no plastic, no coffeemaker to eventually dispose of. But I've tried them. And maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I just don't like the mess, or the stray coffee grounds clinging to my cup. (Hey, a woman has to know her limitations.)

Is there another route to greener coffee consumption that I should know about? I want to hear it.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: I'm replacing paper filters with reusable filters at home, and will donate my extras to the coffee station at work. Credit: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times

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