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 Replies

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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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