Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Past Deadline: Confessions of a Waste-Management Junkie

Call me trashy, but here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 19/08. Someday I hope to find a few minutes to scribble down some regular posts here again!

Confessions of a waste-management junkie

“This is so exciting!” I said to my six-year-old son as I pulled our brand-new shiny GreenBin into the kitchen. I prattled on at some length about how thrilling it is to be able to sort garbage again. “We can do this as a family!” I bubbled, explaining some things won’t go into the trash can anymore.

For a moment Boychild looked horrified, probably because it dawned on him his mother is a bit odd. “But I’ll never remember all this!” he moaned.

“You’ll get used to it,” I reassured, “and if you don’t know where something goes, ask me.”

He wandered off, undoubtedly trying to push worrying thoughts of his waste-management junkie mama out of his head.

See, back when I was a reporter for The Perth Courier one of my “beats” was the county’s now-defunct waste management committee. I was immersed in trash – and not of the tabloid journalism variety. It left me with opinions.

When Perth announced it was launching a GreenBin (curbside organics) program in an effort to divert smelly waste from our almost-full landfill site I was delighted. After all, everyone knows landfill sites are easily offended and don’t appreciate smelly stuff. When the town said it was bringing back our depot so we could recycle more items, I actually did a little dance in my kitchen. I can sort! I can divert!

Yes, I am just that odd.

Sure, it’s not perfect. Change isn’t always lovingly embraced. There’s more to remember, such as what goes into each bucket, bin or bag and when it goes out to the curb. We have to drive farther to the depot than before. The GreenBins may get stinky on hot days. Garbage is only collected every two weeks.

But this is good stuff on so many levels! First of all, the town’s educational materials are first rate. The lists and the handy dandy schedule are on our fridge. Secondly, this will become routine eventually. Now I scrape my plates – even meat – into the kitchen pail instead of the garbage can. I have to look at labels to determine whether an item goes into the blue box, the depot bag or the garbage. I’ll learn.

Yes, the depot is farther away, but it’s open every Saturday morning so you don’t have to think about when to go. Besides, family trips to the dump are, er, great fun! As for the messy smelliness of things, it’s a fact of life. We’re consumers and our landfill is going to have to close in not so many years. That’s gonna be a whole new kettle of stinky, expensive fish. I’m happy to have a new use for my newspapers as bucket liners.

In terms of garbage collection every other week, I’m all for it. For one thing, it shouldn’t be too smelly since all the ickies are in the GreenBin. Diapers would be an exception, I reckon, which certainly makes one understand why moms of days-gone-by had their children potty trained before they left the womb.

The whole thing also helps me to think about what I am buying and how it is packaged. There is still a lot of stuff going to landfill! The relaunched depot doesn’t accept as much as the old one did, but perhaps that is a sign (I hope!) that the town has found actual markets for these recyclables. I always wondered whether all our sorting work resulted in the material being landfilled or dumped in the Pacific or a rainforest somewhere.

It’s not easy to change one’s habits, but there are things we can do to reduce what waste we bring home. Ultimately, though, we need some help at the other end – less packaging at the source. It’s not always easy or possible, as the consumer, to make perfect choices.

Congratulations to the town for taking some proactive and interesting steps to help us manage our waste. There are some other nifty waste-management ideas at – check it out!

Now, if I can just convince my kids I’m not a nutbar and make this a truly exciting family affair, wouldn’t that be great? Dance of joy, dance of joy…

…and people backed away slowly.


Monnik said...

This is great! It *is* fun to manage your waste! Good for you for teaching your family about the importance of it!

Sparky said...