Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taking Out the Trash

I read recently that the per capita amount of trash generated in this country has increased substantially over the past two decades. This is not surprising, especially when you consider that it is usually cheaper these days to buy a new refrigerator, computer, or vacuum cleaner than it is to have the old one repaired.

Hand in hand with the increase in trash, however, has been the increased emphasis on recycling. Paper, plastic, glass, metal, grass and yard clippings -- they all now have their place in our local recycling program. In many areas, people are required to separate the glass from the plastic from the metal; our local program allows us to put them all in the single can. (As Laurie has often pointed out, the stuff is all being dumped into a single truck, so demanding that we sort it would be pointless.) There does seem to be some secret rule regarding plastic, however, and it appears not all the sanitation men know it because sometimes they take the little plastic trays that tomato plants, etc. come in and other times they reject them.

Rejection comes in two ways. Sometimes, they take out the "offending" items and leave them next to the can, taking the rest. Other times, they just leave the can standing at the curb with no explanation, leaving us to wonder why. One time, they stuck a flyer about what was recyclable in the handle of the can. I read through it, but, as there was nothing new or different in the can than in previous weeks, I couldn't figure out what was being rejected. So I left it there... and the following week, they took everything.

Paper recycling is a particularly odd item. They insist that newspapers be separated from magazines, junk mail, etc. One would presume that this is because newspapers are printed on uncoated paper, unlike magazines, but there are magazines printed on newsprint and sections of the newspaper (the Sunday magazine and most of the ad flyers, for example) that are printed on coated stock.
Far more puzzling is the insistence that the newspapers be tied into bundles; putting them into a supermarket bag -- which is made out of recycled paper -- is not acceptable. Nor is using a heavy duty rubber band to bundle them acceptable, apparently. I tried that one time and they left the bundle sitting at the curb.
I have tired of the newspaper bundling rules, by the way. We get four newspapers each day and they pile up fairly quickly. Now I stop at the train station every week or so and dump our entire pile into the recycling bin there -- no bundling is required.

As far as grass clippings, leaves, etc, well, they have me completely baffled.
I made the apparent mistake of putting a can of clippings out on the regular trash day. They left it.
I put it out on recycling day. They left it.
I emptied the can into a plastic bag and put it out on trash day. They left it.
The bag is now sitting at the curb, waiting to see if it will be taken on the next recycling day.
If they leave it again, I'm not quite sure what I'll do. Maybe I'll just have to empty the bag on a windy day and wait for the clippings to blow away.


  1. I think you're supposed to spread the grass clippings and leaves over your garden beds as mulch... it's supposed to help with water saving. (Do they not have "compostumblers" where you are?)

  2. We use the grass clippings on the tomato beds, but too much of it makes the soil acidic. And we use two trash cans to make our own compost year-round. There's a limit to how much we can use and that's when it goes out to the curb.