The City of Phoenix encourages its residents to recycle by distributing rolling “blue barrels”: one-household garbage bins made of blue plastic into which we are supposed to deposit our alleged recyclables, to be rolled out to the street in front where they’re picked up on Thursday mornings.
In the older sections of town — the tracts that have alleys (i.e., about 20 feet of blessedly empty space between you and the neighbor behind you), they park large four-household bins for actual garbage, to be picked up (also on Thursdays) and trucked to the county landfill.
Both of these are nuisances.
• Dragging your trash out to the front curb: a messy bother that invariably results in trash dumped in the street.
• Sharing garbage collection with neighbors who dump stuff on the ground and let it lie: for the birds.
• Sharing garbage collection with neighbors who drop dog sh!t in the bin and leave the lid open for the breeding convenience of the local mosquito and fly populations: for the birds. (Literally: birds love flies and mosquitoes: gooood to eat!)
• Sharing garbage collection with neighbors who jam the bin chuckablock full so you can’t fit in your little Safeway bag full of nonrecyclables (or anything else!): for the birds.
All of these glories may be about to come to an end.
Ever since the upwardly mobile (read: money, political clout) young mother walked out into her backyard to find one of the local bums had jumped her back wall and was happily molesting her two little girls, the new (much treasured!) upwardly mobile neighbors have been up in arms. Among other things, they’ve demanded that the city close off the alleys!
Among the several things this will entail is the end of garbage collection in the alleys. The city had already proposed this (for different reasons: its subcontractor resents having to drive its huge 21st-century garbage trucks down throughways built for 1960s equipment) and been roundly rejected.
But now, lo! We have new neighbors, new bums, and a change of heart.
If they close the alleys, they’ll end up issuing new, one-house garbage bins to all the residents. These are the same size as the blue barrels, only colored mud green. As with the blue barrels, we’ll have to roll them out to the curb for the garbage collectors to dump into their trucks (and, incidentally, all over the street and our yards).
Now, for the micro-news:
This is fine by me, except that I keep the recycling barrel in the garage and don’t have room for two of such barrels. And I’m sorry, but I’m NOT going to store one of those ugly things on my expensively landscaped and maintained xeriscaped front yard!
So I’ve been thinking about this, and… Last time I talked to the City about the trash pickup — to complain about their dumping trash all over the front yard, sidewalk, and street — I said “and there’s all these food wrappers on the ground.” This elicited a knee-jerk lecture from the woman on the other end of the line, who insisted, THREE TIMES, that “you’re not supposed to put food wrappers in the recycling.” Every time I would reply, “But they’re NOT my food wrappers!” she would re-run her lecture from the beginning.
This is the caliber of people hired to run the city’s recycling program. 😀
But…the truth is, some of the stuff that goes into my blue barrel is food wrappers. And…as a practical matter, prob’ly about 70% to 80% of the stuff I dump in there is not really what the City defines as “recyclable.” That barrel is convenient because it’s in the garage, and so I often will toss stuff there that ought to be recyclable and that in many other municipalities is recyclable but that is not recyclable in lovely uptown Phoenix.
Here’s the thing: I prepare almost all my food from scratch. That means I buy things in bulk; I buy vegetables and fruits that don’t come in packages; I buy meat and fish and chicken that don’t come in packaging that our honored Subcontractor defines as “recyclable.”
BUT because I buy a lot of stuff from Costco, many things I buy come in cellophane wrappers and consumer-proof plastic clamshells that very probably are not “recyclable.”
It’s a rare day that I buy a consumer product that comes in a truly “recyclable” package.
A-n-d…by way of not having to put on my clothes and track down a pair of shoes and unlock a padlocked gate and take my life in my hands to go out to the alley (you don’t go out there after dark, not on a bet), I just drop all the junk in the blue barrel.
So I’m thinking, if and when they put the alley-closure scheme into action, I’m going to stash the blue barrel in what will then be my piece of property behind the house and keep the new brown barrel in the garage. Everything can then be dumped into the brown barrel, and I will never have to go into the alley again.
Underscoring my point that very little of what I consume comes in recyclable packaging:
Couple of days ago, I decided I would try a packaged meal. Normally I don’t eat the things, because they taste terrible and they’re decidedly not worth their price. But this was a fancy gourmet packaged meal from the fancy gourmet market: a scampi concoction with enough garlic to cover many a factory-made culinary sin.
This noon, not in the mood for cooking, I opened it to make the day’s Big Meal.
The packaging defies belief:
• a plastic package of sauce. (Defrost this in a bowl under running hot water. How…ecologically wonderful… /s)
• a plastic package of cooked noodles. (Defrost in a colander under cold running water. Uhmmmm…)
• a plastic package of frozen spinach and red bell pepper slices
• a plastic package of small, raw shrimp
The plan: Defrost the sauce by wasting a large amount of heated water. Defrost the noodles by wasting a large amount of cold water. Dump these along with the vegetables and shrimp into a pan and…well…heat. Et voilà! Dinner! Or something.
The quality of this fine meal was OK. Just OK. The amount of waste it generated boggles the brain: four plastic packages plus a larger plastic bag to hold the set of smaller plastic bags. Not to mention the amount of water wasted down the drain.
Now… We’re told that we’re not allowed to recycle “food wrappers.” So…presumably none of this stuff was recyclable! In theory, none of it should’ve gone into the blue barrel. But in practice, all of it did.
Consider: if I had made this stuff as Real Food, rather than defrosting it out of a package, here’s the wrapping we would have had:
• tomatoes: none (I would’ve made a tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, olive oil, and herbs from the garden)
• olive oil: some day, about two months from now, 1 plastic or glass olive oil jar
• fettucini: 1 small cardboard box, holding enough pasta for not one but four meals
• shrimp: none if bought fresh; 1 Costco plastic bag if bought frozen in enough quantity to make not one but a half-dozen meals
• spinach: none
• red bell pepper: none
• bag to carry the stuff home: none if purchased at Costco; two if purchased at a regular grocery purveyor…bags that would be used to collect dog mounds off the neighbors’ yards
Hence, my theory that in reality I dispose of little actually recyclable waste. So minimal, as a matter of fact, that on trash pickup day I could simply walk across the street and drop the few recyclables I might have into the neighbor’s blue barrel.
Maybe, though…maybe that’s un-American. How much recyclable waste, really, does your household generate?