More garbage

March 7, 2004 at 11:01 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

My iBook, it still suffers the dah-mahge, as the inestimable Inspector Clousseau might say, and my blog-reading and blog-writing will be much sparser until the case is sol-ved. And anyway, I’ve been writing a lot of garbage lately these days, so it’s no great loss. But speaking of garbage (which, along with waste and drains, is much on my mind), the other day my husband announced that he had just observed our fair city’s contracted recycling crew toss all the glass, plastic, and metal into the same compartment in the recycling truck as the paper products. In Massachusetts, the recycling guys tossed the former into one compartment, and the latter into another. So how does it work when all the recycling is tossed into the same compartment on the truck? Am I supposed to believe that there are people at the other end who fish through all the scraps of paper, dislodging them from the wet tins and glass, separating out once again what the resident had so thoughtfully separated at the curb, bundled and binned? And if it’s not persons sorting out the mess, what other form of energy is used for the cleanup? I once shut up into stunned silence a friend who enthused about her brother-in-law’s persnickety recycling habits: “You should see him! He washes all the bottles and tins, cleans them right off, they’re immaculate, and then he puts them out on the curb.” I ended the enthusiasm when I asked if he had ever considered how much non-renewable resource (i.e., our drinking water supply) he was using and how much fossil-fuel to heat the water to its optimum soap-dissolving temperature he was burning to achieve this pinnacle of green but anal consciousness. Are my fair city’s recycling guys dumping a big mess somewhere and using non-renewable resources to separate once again what had already been separated? Or are they, as my husband claimed, the same outfit that in the US is under investigation for ties to the mob, and the “recycling” is merely fancy landfill? Possibly forewashed by some persnickety recycler, hence doubly cursed landfill? Is this another “to do” item on my already chaotic agenda: To Do: call The City and find out if the private recycling contracter they hired is connected to the mob and is just dumping, for a fat fee, the recycling into a landfill somewhere up Island? A month or so ago, Monday Magazine, a local somewhat alternative weekly, ran an article about “extreme green” purists, people who go the extra mile for the environment. I was struck by the story of one woman who uses scraps of cloth for toilet paper because it’s wasteful to use paper. For “number two” she does use paper, but for “number one” she uses cloth, ditto for when she menstruates. What I wanted to know was if anyone had done a calculation of the net saving to the environment. You have to use either bleach or really hot water to wash those rags, not to mention a good detergent, and at least one solid rinse cycle (extra water!). And you might do laundry more often, not with a full load, because you don’t want those rags festering in a bucket for over a week. So how much water is she using to achieve this non-paper purity? Wouldn’t it be better to use Monday Magazine, straight off the presses? Newspaper recycles well in the compost, you’d just have to rip those wet pieces into long strips…. When my kids were babies I used a cloth diaper service, never those throw-away store-bought diapers. It’s true, I didn’t want to clog up a landfill unnecessarily, but I had an ulterior motive, too. I felt that cloth gave the baby — especially the young toddler — a better idea of the natural connection between action (urination) and sensation (wetness), something the throw-away diapers never do because they stay “dry to the touch” even if you dump a gallon of urine into them. I figured it was part of mentally challenging them to experience the world, to gain as much sensory information as was safely possible, and that “stay dry diapers” were for retards or for those who wanted to make sure their kids would be sensually retarded. (I bet Uncle Sigmund will call me tomorrow and tell me that I stunted them for life or something, but it doesn’t look like it a decade later; their “zones” are fine.) One side-effect of doing this was that they were out of diapers quicker than other babies, which meant we could stop using Dydee Diaper Service sooner. The latter had a state-of-the-art washing facility that supposedly treated all its wastewater and tried to ensure other environmentally correct things. Whatever. I say this to underscore that I have nothing against recycling and avoiding throw-away products, but I’m always questioning whether I’m hitting a point where the energy expended to avoid the landfilling product does more damage than using the product. Just because you use hot water to rinse the tins before putting them into the recycling doesn’t mean you get green brownie points (??) or that you’ve actually saved any energy. Just because you use cloth on your bottom doesn’t mean it’s a free swipe.

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