DOES THIS CAN MAKE MY WASTESTREAM LOOK BIG?

Lynne Rochelle

English 170

March 17, 2015

Kate Scrivener

DOES THIS CAN MAKE MY WASTESTREAM LOOK BIG?

I believe I may have finally crossed the over-sharing line today when I post photos of my family’s garbage.  However, I hope you will forgive me when I explain that my final project in my Writing for the Web class is a post on our blogs related to Clark College’s Common Read of the book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes.

 

I decided to begin with an honest look at how we are contributing to this global disaster by doing a waste-stream analysis of a week’s worth of garbage and recycling coming out of our home.  Yuck! Join me as we journey through the underbelly of my family’s refuse pile.

 

The City of Camas has a mixed recycling program which means that we combine all our recycling except glass into a single container.  We did an excellent job of not including garbage in our recycling.  Everything was where it belonged. Our garbage however had some issues.  I found that we had quite a few items that we should have been composting. I knew those rotten limes should be composted, but what else could be? 100 Things You Can Compost is a great post on the Small Footprint Family website to give you some ideas about composting.  We also had some paper and yogurt containers that just didn’t get into the recycling bin.  Again, just an easy fix to remind everyone to be more aware.

 

My biggest concern turned out to be the large amount of things that can be recycled but that our curbside recycling program won’t take.  This includes Styrofoam meat trays, plastic clamshells, to-go cups, and other film items (zip-top bags, bread bags, etc.).  Here’s the break down of what I found out (after just a quick internet search) about disposing of these items appropriately.

 

Plastic lids and plastic clamshells #1 – 6. It seems I may be the last to know, but for at least 7 years, New Seasons has had a recycling area that collects all those plastic containers at every store.

Household styrofoam.  There seems to be lots of places around Vancouver that will take packing styrofoam, but household styrofoam like meat trays, styrofoam cups, and egg-cartons are trickier.  Currently it seems that only Far West Recycling in Portland will take those items.  There are no Vancouver Area sites.

Coffee to-go cups. Unfortunately it seems that they must just continue to go into the garbage.  Last year Oregon Live ran wrote a great article by Adam Minter about why these cups aren’t being recycled

Plastic film (not grocery bags).  I’ve recycled my plastic garbage bags for years at my local grocery stores.  But everything else like zip-top bags, shrink-wrap around packages of toilet paper, bread bags, dry-cleaner bags, etc. has to be thrown away.  These were a fairly large part of that left-over recyclables pile in our waste-stream. Happily I found on-line a Plastic Film Recycling Organization that is making a push to help us get these items out of the landfills.  They list local stores who can accept mixed plastic film recycling and many stores in our area were listed. Hurray!  Another easy solution.  But wait, there is a small asterisk that indicates that I should verify with the store.  When I contacted my local stores, not one was currently able to take mixed film only plastic grocery bags.  The recycling company that hauls away those recycled items will only accept grocery bags.  And I was told over and over that “there was nothing that they can do.”  Well, for now, I can take those items over to Far West Recycling in Portland who will accept those items. But I’ll be following-up on this issue.

 

 

That’s the breakdown of our garbage.  What is my take away from all this?  A mornings worth of wading through my trash and a few internet searches and telephone calls later and our garbage has reduced from three bags to two each week.  Our recycling has taken over a larger part of our garage with more bins and bags accumulating recyclables before making trips to New Seasons and across the bridge to Far West Recycling.  Quite a bit of change with very little effort on my part.  Now as I drive through my neighborhood and see all the trash cans out on Friday morning, I’m wondering how much of an impact would it be if everyone reduced their garbage by one-third and started recycling those additional items.  Maybe the City of Camas would start accepting household styrofoam and my local Safeway store would start accepting mixed plastic film.

 

While I blithely trotted my recycling and garbage cans out to the curb each week without really understanding what was in those cans, I was a bigger part of the problem than I needed to be.  Garbage and what to do with it is going to be an issue for years to come.  I need to do my part.

 

What about you?  My challenge to you — slip on those rubber gloves and dive into your own waste stream. Knowledge and awareness are the tools that we have at our disposal right now to try to reduce the growth of this problem for future generations and the whole world to deal with.  Ignorance is our downfall.

 

A week’s worth of recycling.

A week’s worth of garbage.

 

Things in my waste stream that can be recycled but aren’t accepted in my curb-side recycling program.

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