Free Coffee I love coffee
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Gus Silber was walking along the beach in Umhlanga and decided to go grab a coffee, he saw a sign that said “Free Coffee” and became intrigued.


Umlhanga, South Africa (05 December 2018) – Gus Silber was walking along the beach when he decided he felt like a coffee. He walked along the promenade towards Rox Coffee Company to pick up a cup and a sign caught his eye. It said “Free Coffee”… but there was a catch.

In order to claim a free coffee, he would have to fill a big bucket with beach litter. Feeling a little daunted by its size, he grabbed the bucket and set off towards the beach.

‘”Free Coffee”, said the sign that caught my eye as we strolled along the promenade in Umhlanga, and I wondered whether there would be another catch. There was.

The coffee was free, all right, but the T&C that applied was: “if you collect a bucket of litter off the beach”.

That sounded to me like a fair trade for a Flat White, so I stood in the queue at the little kiosk of the Rox Coffee Company, and as everyone else ordered their Espresso and Americano and Macchiato and Golden Latte (with almond milk, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, coconut oil, and honey), I, when I got to the front, ordered a bucket.”

Gus had noted that the beach was pretty spotless to start and he knew filling his bucket might be a bigger task than he had prepared for. He refused to give in though and set his mind to the task of uncovering as much litter as possible.

“Earlier, as we ambled along the snaking walkway between the candy-striped lighthouse and the whale rib-cage pier, I had remarked on the spotlessness of the precinct – there literally wasn’t a speck of litter to be seen, despite the hordes of holidaymakers, teen-ragers, and Umhlangaterians in town.”

“I set off, my bucket swinging slowly to and fro in my hand, my eyes on the litterless path, with its beckoning swirl of red-and-brown Corobrick. To make matters worse, I was alone in my quest.”

Gus used his time on the beach to contemplate the bigger questions in life. He became relaxed by his surroundings and in-tune with spotting bits of litter disguised as nature.

“As an inlander, whenever I walk on the beach, I am lulled into a state of Zen contemplation by the roar and shhh of the waves.
I think about the big questions: how many grains of sand on the shore? How many scatterlings of light upon the breakers? Does the tiny fish, flitting in the rockpool, perceive the rockpool to be the entirety of the ocean? But now, all I was thinking was, where is all the rubbish.”

“I grew more expert as I walked along, learning to tell the difference between a cuttlefish bone and a polystyrene cup, a ready-to-pop bluebottle and a deflated plastic bag, the sheen of a wave-washed pebble and…ah, a beer-bottle.
I kneed my way up the dune, grabbing onto a tree-root for leverage, and I pulled the shell of a Heineken from its harbour. It was clogged with thick, dark sand. I tapped it against the tree, and the sand blew away.”

“I put the bottle in the bucket, and then another, and another. I reached for a tin, stripped of its branding by the winds of time. It crumpled into flakes of rust in my hand. I walked along. An empty box of Hookies sardine-bait. A Lay’s crisp-packet. A yoghurt tub. The clam-shell of a takeaway burger box. A Winston’s cigarette carton.”

Once Gus had completed his collection, he set his sights towards the coffee shop where his flat white was calling for him.

“At the lagoon, with its coffee-coloured ripples, cleaved at low tide from the ocean, I up-ended my haul and took stock of my bucket-list. Surely by now I had enough for the coffee I was craving. But it was hard to kick the habit.
I saw something pink and plastic, half-embedded in the sand, and I was about to pick it up, when a dad glared at me from underneath his umbrella. I realised I was looking at a toy beach-spade, in the shape of a shell. I let it be.

I stopped to make my acquaintance with an Akita pup, a big, fluffy breed of dog from Japan, and its walking companion, spying my bucket, said, “Oh, well done”, and then, with a sigh: “Aren’t humans trashy?” I didn’t have the nerve to tell her that my environmental activism was incentivised by caffeine.

As I climbed the stairs back to the promenade, a man ran up to me, waved, and handed me an empty Brutal Fruit bottle. “Thanks, hey!” he said. My bucket was full and clinking.”

His task was complete and the coffee was brewing before his eyes. He handed over his bucket with the greatest pride and claimed his prize.

“At the kiosk of the Rox Coffee Company, I showed it to the barista, and he nodded amidst the hissing of steam.
The concept of trash for cash, I should add, is not all that new: in various parts of the developing world, including India and South Africa, there are programmes in place to encourage communities to gather and swap garbage for WiFi, school supplies, and basic commodities.

But I hadn’t heard of trash for coffee before. My Flat White, let me tell you, was good. But nowhere near as good as the feeling I got when I crumpled up the cup and threw it in the bin, where all of the garbage we generate and leave behind, rightfully belongs.”

Gus’s experience was enlightening and it was great to hear the other side of the story. We have shared concepts like this before, where coffee shops trade coffee for litter. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world.

Have you ever traded litter for something? Let us know in the comment section.

Sources: Facebook
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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