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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