Monday, November 5, 2012

Paper or plastic? On a garbage management system

Seattle has been a bag-it-yourself city for several months now. I see myself, and others, finally getting used to bringing a bag when we go shopping, or willingly paying for one.

The reverberations from this change are subtle, but noticeable.

I used to have a handy supply of paper bags to take out the recyling and garbage in. Even though I use them over and over again  and only use the bag for garbage when it's seen its final use, I am starting to run low on paper bags. God forbid that I have to start BUYING plastic waste can bags!

I'm going to need to reassess my garbage processing unit.

Meanwhile my supply of reusable bags has been overflowing. They seem to stick to the children like marshmallow fluff sticks to the outside of the jar. I  handed off a bunch of mine to my ex adn the next thing I find is they've multiplied in the hall closet.

If you live in Seattle and have children, especially teens, you know what I'm talking about: compost management. Compost management includes sorting compostables three ways: for the green compost bin, for the yard waste, and for the chickens. (No, we don't have a worm bin.)

You also need to consider how many times a day (or week) you want to take out your compost. We take ours out daily, and sometimes even more frequently, because the kitchen is small and the smaller container is less likely to stink, grow mold and attract flies when left out on the counter.

You need to teach your children where to put what garbage. We are learning together. People still ask each other questions like, do you compost bones? Can I compost this coffee cup? I'm still not exactly sure about this one, except the cap goes in the recycling. Better pay attention next time I'm at Starbucks to see what they do.

By law (you know, those government-impositions on our freedoms that are good for us?), restaurants need to sort their waste. Bins with photos of what goes in which container greet you at every fast food biz in the city.

(My marketing brain notes that Starbucks has been inconsistent in how well this process is managed from store to store.  For a company that is trying to project a green image, they are missing the mark and fall well short of the bar that other companies with their compostable spoons have set.)

Since virtually everything else goes into recyclying, the amount of it is constantly threatening to overwhelm my dining room. It's not uncommon to have accumulated, in one day, three bags. (Yes, I take the paper.)

The most marvelous thing is that our children are growing up learning that this is how it is. They won't have to figure out which type of spoon is compostable and which isn't -- they've been doing science fair exhibits on PLA for years now.

I know from my travels to Northern Michigan, recycling has come a long way for the rest of the nation. But I also know they'll be in for a shock when the rest of them are forced to control the flow of garbage, or wind up overwhelmed by it. Some government regulations are a bit like the rules I set for my children. Sometimes they chafe, but they are always necessary.