Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Trashy Trash…

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No, not racy books. Actual, real trash.

Of late, it’s occurred to me that the recycling bin is a) a nuisance, occupying space in the garage where it blocks cabinetry I need to use; and b) rather a waste of time and effort. The painter has wanted it outside so he can stuff his used paper shielding strips in it, so it’s been parked in the front yard for the past week.

Meanwhile, a friend gave me about half-a-freezerful of high-end packaged goods: prepared meals from Omaha Steaks and Costco. The husband’s cardiologist informed them that they had to get completely off salt — that would be the same quack who gave me the same out-of-date and impractical advice a couple years ago. So they took that to heart and threw out or gave away literally months’ worth of food they’d stashed in in their freezer.

Understand, they’re both around 90 and so, sensibly enough, they tend to prefer packaged goods that can be heated in an oven or a microwave with minimal clean-up mess. These, as it develops, consist of a pile of salt with some food mixed in. So she donated a ton of food to her friends’ cause.

I fix a couple of these meals…and doing so, a small nightlight dawns:

The reason the blue recycling barrel seems like a ludicrous waste of time and effort to me is that about 90 percent of the stuff I slip into that thing (by way of avoiding having to make the mildly hazardous trip into the bum-infested alley) is NOT recyclable, per the City’s rules and regs. Why? Because I don’t eat that kind of food.

One of these ready-made meals — oversalted stewed mushroom beef over noodles — came in a box that was wrapped in stretchy plastic. Inside the box was a plastic container holding the food, and that was also covered in heat-seal plastic. So one meal — just ONE meal — came with THREE LAYERS of landfill-clogging packaging. By the time I’d sampled a couple of the things, I’d filled up the kitchen trash can!

Then some friends came over for a beading party. One of the women drinks, exclusively, diet soda, preferably diet Coke. I bought four bottles, since some of the other women will drink that gunk, too. So now I have two bottles of fake gunky drink to get rid of (donate? pour down the drain?) and four plastic bottles of the recyclable sort.

The fact is, I don’t eat that kind of thing, and I hate loathe and despise artificially flavored soda water. So…that means there’s a lot of wrappings, boxes, cans, and bottles that do not come into my house and so do not go out of my house.

When you buy real food, you do get some packaging waste:

  • Meat comes on Styrofoam trays. Styrofoam is verboten in the recycling bins.
  • It’s wrapped in heat-shrink plastic. Thin stretchy plastic is verboten in the recycling bins.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables come home in plastic grocery bags. Plastic bags are verboten in the recycling bins.
  • Pasta comes in clear plastic bags. Clear plastic bags are verboten in the recycling bins.
  • Rice comes in clear plastic bags. Clear plastic bags are verboten in the recycling bins.
  • Beans come in clear plastic bags. Clear plastic bags are verboten in the recycling bins.
  • Dog food (to the extent that I feed commercial dog food, which ain’t much) comes in waxy paper bags. Dog food bags are verboten in the recycling bins.
  • I do buy some ice cream, but it’s packaged in cool little plastic “cans” with screw-on lids — I keep those for use around the house and yard. It’s not like I eat that much ice cream, after all.
  • Costco wants to give you a box (i.e., they want you to carry their trash away) every time you shop there, but I have two big Tupperware bins in the back of the clunk, so I reject the cardboard boxes.
  • I shred old documents and waste paper from my printer…that stuff can go right into the compost bin.

When you come right down to it, just about the only thing that’s recyclable here is the junkmail. And I’m beginning to think I should put stickers on that stuff saying “return to sender” and hand it back to the mailman. Or take it and dump it in the blue mailboxes: I’ve about had it with having to carry an entire mailbox full of trash to the blue barrel six days a week. Otherwise, almost everything I throw out isn’t supposed to go into the blue bin at all.

The city laid off the trash cops, pretty much eliminating the chance of a fine, so I toss most of that stuff in there anyway. But why, when I have to take the wet garbage and the dog mounds out to the alley two or three times a week, anyway? Normally I’ll store the few things that can’t go into the composter in the refrigerator (to keep it from stinking) till I get around to unlocking gates and braving the bums. (Damn, but I miss my German shepherds…) Dog shit gets collected and stashed out of sight and smelling range until I take out the food waste.

If I have to go out to the alley anyway, and if in fact almost nothing of what goes into the blue barrel is supposed to go into the blue barrel, why do I have that giant blue thing taking up space in the garage? Why am I rolling it out to the curb every Thursday, willy nilly; then picking up the trash that gets dumped all over the yard, the sidewalk, and the street; picking up the busted barrel that the guy has tossed on its side in the road; and dragging it back in the garage to block the storage cabinets?

As it develops, picking up and sorting and delivering all that recyclable (and not-so-recyclable) trash costs taxpayers a lot of money: funding that is taken away from health care, schools, and other basic services. The effectiveness of these programs is not altogether a given. Here and there, people are actually questioning their usefulness., whether they’re worth the cost, whether popularizing curbside pick-up is a wise idea, and whether it would be more sensible, cost-effective, and kinder to the environment to legislate against all the wasteful packaging that produces all that unnecessary trash in the first place.

So with Painter Dude monopolizing the blue barrel this week, I’ve been testing the idea that except for the junk mail, all of the trash can go out to the alley. And y’know: it’s working. There’s not much extra stuff to haul out there, and what there is, is almost all non-recyclable.

After the trash guys pick up the last of the painter’s paper stuff, I am rolling that barrel out to the Bum Cage in the alley, where it can reside out of sight and mind. The few recyclables I have — maybe one wine bottle every couple weeks, a few beer cans a week, and a Maker’s Mark bottle about once every three or four months — can go into a neighbor’s bin on pickup morning.

As for the junk mail: “Return to Sender!”

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14 Comments

  1. With all due respect I find this troubling…I guess we are lucky….In this neck of the woods recycling is getting easier. At our landfill/recycling center there seems to be a place for almost everything. Those Styrofoam trays have their own separate container….as does rigid plastic…cardboard…newspapers…aluminum…steel….even those plastic bags. And as crazy as it sounds those plastic bags can be made into more plastic bags or used as an ingredient in “plastic lumber”.
    We compost and recycle and because of this we have a plastic grocery bag of “trash” about every 3 weeks. I would encourage you to return to recycling and lessen your “foot print”…..

    • There’s ONE grocery store here (uhm…welll…that I know of) that will let you bring plastic grocery bags back. Mostly they just hand them back out there, though: don’t think they’re sent off to a recycling plant. One of the grocers here — I think it’s Sprouts, but it might be Trader’s — gives shoppers a small discount if they bring in their own bag.

      I re-use almost all the plastic bags for one purpose or another. Of course, sooner or later they do get thrown away, after they get dirty enough. But I do not buy many bags from the store — Ziplock bags get washed and reused — one or two boxes of those things, and literally, you’ll never have to buy any more of them.

      When you buy your meat at Costco, at least you get, say, four steaks with only ONE slab of styrofoam,. rather than being presented with four styrofoam trays and four sheets of damn sticky plastic. Since I get three meal-size pieces of meat out of EACH steak, that means I get one piece of styrofoam instead of 12 pieces.

      There still are places where you can get your meat wrapped in paper — Whole Foods and actual face-to-face butcher shops. But they’re WAY outside my price range.

      I’d say I end up with one plastic grocery-store-size bagful of wet garbage every couple of weeks, but it does have to be taken out more often than that….otherwise is stinks up the refrigerator.

      They charge you to use the landfill here, I understand: https://www.maricopa.gov/3366/Accepted-Items-Fees. It’s not prohibitive, but it’s enough an annoyance to discourage most people from going there unless they have a LOT of trash to dispose of. The City’s fees, though, WILL send you out into the desert looking for a place to get rid of stuff: https://www.phoenix.gov/publicworks/garbage/disposable

  2. IMHO….that’s sad that your community doesn’t take a more active role in recycling. I guess we are just lucky. Recycling is FREE here…trash is about $70 a ton with a minimum charge of $8, The next county over…a little “richer” than ours….has taken recycling to a new level and are aiming for “zero waste”. They even collect food scraps and are commercially composting it to be sold to contractors. It is quite the enterprise and like our county they are always looking for new markets for the recycled materials that have been collected.
    My thought is with your new composter you wouldn’t have a lot of trash at any rate. Ever get a chance take a look at San Francisco and their recycling program and hopes for “zero waste”…..These guys have this down to a science….

  3. With ya on the plastic bags…That has been addressed here locally by proposed legislation to put a fee of 5 cents on plastic bags…..WHICH was soundly defeated…the argument being that a bag fee would hurt the “disadvantaged” most… In Washington DC they passed legislation for a bag fee of 10 cents and it has been reported that litter from bags has been reduced by 90%… And a thought…If I told you 25 years ago that Americans would buy “bottled water” by the case and that there would be whole aisles dedicated to BOTTLED WATER in grocery stores…You would think I was crazy!

    • After the City of Tempe passed an ordinance to that effect, the right-wing crazies in the state legislature rose up in a frenzied mass and passed a state law making it illegal to force grocery stores to charge a fee for the plastic bags.

      Yes: the bottled water phenomenon…if there’s any proof anywhere that the sheeple can be persuaded to do ANYTHING, no matter how stupid it is, that is the proof. People buy the stuff even when they know it’s actually just tap water! I mean…whaaaaa?????????

      I can remember when they got rid of paper grocery bags and switched to the plastic bags. How I hated the things! We were living in a second-story walk-up, so I had to carry every bag up the damn steps (which I once fell down, with a double armful of grocery bags…). Instead of two or three bags of groceries, now I had six or eight to juggle. And of course because a plastic bag won’t stand up like a grocery bag does, everything would roll out into the car’s trunk and I’d have to repack the damn bags to haul the stuff into the apartment. And they didn’t fit in a kitchen trash basket, which was designed to hold paper bags, so now that was good-bye to a convenient way to handle the kitchen garbage.

      Now, of course, I keep tupperware crates in the back of the vehicle, which keeps the bags from spilling out all over the inside of the car. But there you go: MORE plastic!

      Disadvantage of paper bags: they do harbor roach eggs. So if you store them in the house (or in your apartment) sooner or later you’re gonna have cockroaches. And since many such bags are now manufactured overseas, now we have invasive species of Asian cockroaches — just saw one the other day, come to think of it. The little guy was outside, mercifully.

  4. Roaches?…in the bags? “EEH GAD!” … I spoke too soon….JUST got an e-mail from our recycling department that request that we gather up our plastic bags and not drop them off at the recycling center. But rather bag them up and drop them off at the local grocery stores drop offs. It seems these bags when loose cause problems for the recycling equipment. I’m thinkin’ the folks that buy this stuff are getting “pickier”…. It’s OK I’m pretty certain these bags really do become new bags…Long as it doesn’t wind up in a landfill or the waterways…

  5. In 2013 I moved my Mother from Tucson AZ to NJ because she was no longer able to properly care for herself. The change of address I submitted to the post office allowed all the “charities” to find her again and the amount of mail she received was significant, 3-4 items a day.

    Aside from the nickels, dimes, quarters, dollar bills and checks that were sent to her, I opened the mail and stuffed as much of the material as I could into the return envelope and sealed it. On the enclosed letter I requested that my Mother’s name and address be removed from their solicitation lists with a large red or black sharpie. I did not put a return address on the outside envelope and blacked out any of my address that may have been pre-printed on the envelope. I also wrote 1st request, 2nd request, 3rd request on the outside of the envelope as appropriate. If the enclosed envelope was not pre-paid, I put a single first class stamp on it regardless of weight and dropped them into a mailbox and hoped the envelope would cost the charity more money.

    Within six months, the quantity of unsolicited mail dropped to less than one a week. I now rarely receive unsolicited mail for my Mother. I have also done that with some of the mail I receive, such as car insurance from Geico, with success.

    It was annoying to have to take so much time to do this but I got the result that I wanted.

    • This is good. I’ll try it!

      It does require you to open envelopes, stuff junk in them, and add a request. But…you could simply print out a stack of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd requests, have them sitting on a table next to the TV, and stuff envelopes while watching the idiot box.

      How would you know which was a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd request, though? You’d have to keep track — that adds to the nuisance factor.

      And I wonder if you didn’t put a stamp on it, whether the PO would deliver it “postage due”… They used to do that if there was no return address. Hmm… Here’s a forum from 2010 with a report to that effect (https://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1761798)… but that was a long time ago.

      Nothing ventured: I’m gonna try it. What can happen? If your return address isn’t on the thing, about the worst the PO can do is toss it in the trash. 😀

      Really, without the junk mail, I would have almost nothing to drop in the blue barrel. The great preponderance of stuff that goes in there is junk mail, followed by items the city would prefer one not dump in the recycling.

      • I only write on the solicitation letter itself. I don’t take the time to use my own paper to write back.

        I write the 1st request, 2nd request, and 3rd request notations on the outside of their envelope. My goal is to get their attention to the message inside and cause additional time and money costs by returning their envelope with all the material. Keeping track isn’t necessary. Sending an envelope back using 2nd request on two separate occasions doesn’t concern me at all.

        My letter carrier told me that mail without postage or a return address is usually thrown away.

      • @Christine: Sending the stuff back to THEM to throw away is satisfying at some level, anyway. This morning I sent three wads of advertising back to their senders in their prepaid envelopes. That’s good: make them pay for it.

        What about all the junk you get that isn’t even addressed? The stacks of grocery ads and junk? Apparently they deliver the debris en masse to the P.O., which then makes the postal carriers stuff it into every mailbox on their routes. Far as I know, it does no good to ask them not to deliver that trash.

  6. Return the junk mail? NO WAY! That’s a “resource” that I get for FREE! When I get junk mail I save the paper that has a “blank side” for use when printing something out on the computer. The envelopes and mail printed on both sides is shredded and used as a fire starter and heat in the woodstove. I save this thru out the year and use when cold weather arrives. The ash is sifted and spread on the lawn just like lime or fertilizer….the lawn loves it…

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