27 August 2009


It’s beyond obvious that America (and much of the rest of the world, too) is a throw-away society. Witness the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Looking at some of the so-called Clunkers that were turned in, many seemed like great vehicles to me. Alas, more scrap in our scrap yards.

I just got back from the recycling center – an adventure we perform two or three times a year. We just build up a huge load of stuff and do it all at once. We had 5 bins (action packers) of glass (a lot of wine bottles), 2 bins of glossy magazines and catalogs, 1 bin of cans (mostly dog food), and 2 bins of recyclable (#1 and #2) plastic bottles. We save newspapers for fire-starter in the winter. We don’t use many other cans. We’ll do a big cardboard load once a year. We compost our vegetable scraps. And our local recycling doesn’t take a few items, so those go into our small weekly trash pickup.

Nonetheless, we actually feel we might be a little more conservative in our packaging usage than most folks. We try to use cloth grocery bags (except when I go to the store by myself and often forget them); we seldom eat packaged (canned, frozen) veggies or other products; we don’t eat take-out (so don’t have those types of trash).

A few weeks ago we stayed in a rental cabin, and the owners had a thick book of “rules” for everything: trash (compost everything possible), water (only biodegradable soap), and energy savings. Yet they said that they didn’t recycle because they “have to pay for it.” Huh?

I just put a 10-spot in the glass-recycling donation jar today as the service doesn’t support itself (all my other recycles were “free”). Just about everything in our lives costs something to consume and to dispose of. We pay for trash collection whether we take it to the dump ourselves or have curbside pickup. Why should we expect recycling to be free?

Of course, it’s impossible to expect that we’ll ever really reduce our impact on the waste stream, although a few people and businesses are trying. But this “we have to pay for recycling” comment was just an amazing example of short-sighted self-interest that totally baffled me.