Bureau of Waste Management

My cur­rent re­spon­si­ble life-im­prov­ing project con­sists of avoid­ing plas­tic bags as much as pos­si­ble. It is ac­tu­al­ly much broad­er than that, since I’m re­cy­cling plas­tic, met­al and card­board and try­ing to re­duce my pa­per con­sump­tion as much as pos­si­ble, but plas­tic bags are the most ob­vi­ous thing to avoid. They are every­where too. Most of the time when I go to the store, I tell the clerk that I don’t need a bag, since I can ei­ther car­ry the things out eas­i­ly by hand, or stick ‘em in my back­pack. A lot of times they seem a bit sur­prised, as if I’ve wok­en them out of their cashier-trance briefly. Hopefully they, and the peo­ple in line be­hind me, might stop just long enough to think about how easy it is to not take a bag if it is un­nec­es­sary. I still take my bags from Target though, they are high­er qual­i­ty than oth­ers and make per­fect trash bags for my bath­room trash can.

And I still end up with ten or twelve bags when I stock up at the gro­cery. Once I get home, they go in­to the re­cy­cling bin im­me­di­ate­ly though. Separating my trash has shown me how very lit­tle I toss can’t be re­cy­cled. Most of what ends up in the garbage is food, which, if I had my own abode, could be com­post­ed. I’m even try­ing as hard as pos­si­ble to re­duce my food waste, which main­ly con­sists of not over­buy­ing on per­ish­ables when I’m at the store. It is a del­i­cate bal­ance. The best case sce­nario for me would be to have a cor­ner mar­ket with fresh pro­duce, so I could buy what­ev­er I need­ed that day. It is good to know that I don’t pro­duce that much waste. Except for pa­per. I’m re­al­ly try­ing to cut back on that as well. I’m no longer buy­ing pa­per nap­kins, or fa­cial tis­sue, in­stead I use hand­ker­chiefs. I’m us­ing note pa­per un­til it re­sem­bles the score charts my grand­fa­ther used to keep while play­ing his in­tri­cate form of soli­taire, and I’ve de­cid­ed to dis­con­tin­ue my National Geographic sub­scrip­tion and try to get my fix on­line in­stead. But I still waste too much pa­per and my ex­cuse is very lame. I don’t have a box to put it in. If I had a box I could haul it down to Tremont school and dump it in the pa­per re­cy­cling dump­ster. Instead, all the junk mail I get, and all my oth­er pa­per waste just ends up in the trash can.

I’m try­ing to re­duce at work as well, but it is hard­er there. The process is two-fold for me. First, I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on keep­ing re­cy­clable goods sep­a­rat­ed from the rub­bish and then haul­ing them to the re­cy­cling drop-off points [which isn’t hard be­cause they are con­ve­nient­ly lo­cat­ed] Server-side re­cy­cling. Second, I’m re­duc­ing the waste on my end, us­ing less pa­per, avoid­ing plas­tic bags, rid­ing my bike the mile to the mar­ket. Client-side sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle al­ways sound­ed too catchy to me, too much like a slo­gan which los­es all mean­ing, but now, for­ev­er and a smoke break since the first use of that phrase, I ac­tu­al­ly un­der­stand what it means. And it is start­ing to feel good to be re­spon­si­ble. That must be what it means to be old.

10 thoughts on “Bureau of Waste Management

  1. We have com­post in our back­yard and it does not smell if it is work­ing prop­er­ly. One note though an­i­mal mat­ter should not be in­clud­ed in a com­post pile. No oil, fats, meat or bones – at­tracts un­de­sir­ables. Eggshells are good but not the in­sides of eggs.
    One ad­van­tage for gar­den­ers are lots and lots of worms in a com­post pile. They are great aer­a­tors for lawns and gar­dens.

    If your land­lord has a vic­to­ri­an gar­den, plant mat­ter is great for com­post­ing. He may be in­ter­est­ed in com­post­ing too.

  2. Shalom Adam,

    I sec­ond (or third) the com­post idea. Good com­post does not stink. And if you’re re­al­ly con­cerned, there are a num­ber of very good un­der-the-sink worm com­posters avail­able.

    Also, if you have a garbage dis­pos­al, that’s al­most as good (us­ing the elec­tric­i­ty makes it not-so-good) since it puts the or­gan­ics back in­to the sys­tem where they can be used and not en­tombed in a san­i­tary land­fill.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  3. If you cringe at the plas­tic bags when you go to the gro­cery store, check out the very nice can­vas totes avail­able at Trader Joe’s. One al­ter­na­tive to all that plas­tic, and who doesn’t like tote bags?

  4. I have very en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly com­mit­ted city-dwelling friends who have kitchen com­post box­es. It’s a ver­mi­form com­post, and if you main­tain it right the worms eat any­thing that would make it stink. Sounds gross, but I’ve seen it in ac­tion. And it could help with you pa­per prob­lem, be­cause you have to feed it pa­per, too.

  5. Yeah I use can­vas bags too. Some clerks get pissed off be­cause they don’t hang well in the holders…geez. I al­so wash and reuse my pro­duce bags —  The clerks re­al­ly hate weigh­ing the or­anges when she has to chase them around the counter first ;0
    PS> Your page is look­ing very spiffy!

  6. I think I agree with you that get­ting old changes how you think, though I hope 27 isn’t old!! 🙂

    My lo­cal coun­cil gave out free black com­post­ing bins which I prompt­ly got hold of. I al­so be­gan seper­at­ing my pa­per and plas­tics but, as you say, plas­tics are a pain! Every re­cy­cling sta­tion near­by on­ly ac­cepts two types of plas­tics and the ma­jor­i­ty of the stuff I have isn’t ei­ther of them.

    I guess it isn’t enough to just want to re­cy­cle, you have to change what you buy even if it is on of­fer be­cause the plas­tic it comes in won’t get re­cy­cled and will end up in land­fill some­where! Mad Mad World!

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