They call me Trash Nazi. Family and friends gently poke fun at my multiple trash cans, trash can labels suggesting to visitors where to put what, my obsessive behavior, never too proud to pluck something from the trash that shouldn’t be there. In time, my family fell in line with the new program. Now, we’re all Nazi’s. We should get matching T’s.
I compost kitchen and yard waste. I have a powerful wood chipper (yes, it runs on gas…what’d you expect?). When the “clean trash” piles up enough, I load it into the van and off to the drop-off center. I no longer even think about it. It’s just what I do.
I’m all smiles for my neighbors as they roll their gigantic trash can(s) to the curb every Monday and Thursday as I walk the kids to the bus stop, watching the crows and varmits pick through exposed bags until the collector gets there. Not me. Every-so-often, I hand-carry a small one-time-use bag of trash directly to the garbage collector as he approaches the end of my drive. I smile for him too, wish him good morning, and drop it into the front-loader — he stays in the truck and smiles back. If I miss him on his run, that’s okay; my trash bag is small enough to drop into the receptacle at the corner gas station. And it’s not stinky either, so it can sit in my car for a couple of days.
I have no smiles for the $50 trash bill when it comes. It’s mandatory by local law, so I must pay it whether I use it or not, or risk being fined. It’s my cost to consume and waste responsibly, I tell myself. The least they could do is give me curbside recycle pick-up service, but I guess that’s too much to ask of my city.
After a few years, it’s all working like a well-oiled machine. Except for one nagging little container.
Aseptics. I have collected nearly a year’s worth hoping to find a “home” that’s not the local landfill. Believe me, I have tried, and I still have not found one. These containers are cardboard, but then they’re not. There’s a bit of plastic and metal that must be separated from the cardboard by a process known as hydrapulping. Apparently, there aren’t many plants which do this in the US.
Cardboard recyclers don’t like aseptics, I’m told, because they “gum up the works.” Aseptics are meticulously hand-picked from the floor and sent to (you guessed it) the landfill. There’s so much confusion about whether aseptics is cardboard or not that at least one state banned them temporarily.
The Carton Council is supposed to be the authority on recycling these containers. They were no help; in fact, they led me to false information about my local recycler (which was promptly corrected). Last I checked only 9 states offer aseptic carton recycling in the US. Pathetic, to say the least.
I attempted to make changes where I could.
Vegetable and chicken broth was an easy change and the first to be eliminated from the pantry. It’s rare we buy a bird carcass, but when we do, the bones and remains are boiled with some choice veggies to make a gallon of chicken stock for the freezer to be used in later recipes. (The cost savings of the broth alone, $3/qt, paid for the free-range bird.)
Even juice boxes were an cinch to switch. Capri Suns (for the kids’ lunch kits) cost just as much and those plastic pouches are collected right there in the cafeteria and sent in for money. The school makes $0.02 on every recycled pouch turned in. Done. No-brainer.
I am down to the coconut, soy, or almond milks. There is one brand of almond milk that is packaged in #1 plastic (like milk jugs), so I simply chose to pay the extra $0.15 for that brand. All nut milks can be made at home, I’m told. The milk is extracted from the meat by a process of soaking then squeezing and straining the liquid, soaking then squeezing, repeat. From my days in Malaysia, I remember that shaving the meat of the coconut requires a special tool, a lathe. That’s provided that you can even break into the dang coconut husk in the first place. Sorry — too much trouble.
I’ve reduced and reused all I can. I’d love to figure out what to do with these containers. Consider it a challenge for me — many of you know that I don’t give up very easily.
Happy Earth Day, people! Be sure to thank your worms today. They sure do a lot of useful, thankless work.