J500 Media and the Environment

This post is trashy by Chardonnay

So how about some good trash talk on one of my roommates for a change?

The other day, she asks me if I would tell her the next time I’m going to take the recycling, because– get ready, read slowly, you’re not seeing things– “my recycling is full”
She opens the cabinet under the sink (I thought we only kept cleaning supplies down there) and I see this:
My roommate recycles cans!

Stifling a gasp, I look up and see a little green-arrow recycling-logo-halo form just above her head. Last semester, I gave a speech on recycling. I guess at least one of the three practice speeches I delivered to her carried influence. Maybe it was my sweet pie-chart on waste disposal, I just can’t be sure.

I’ll tell you now what I told my coms class: Each year, Americans generate enough waste to fill a convoy of garbage trucks halfway to the moon. Whoa! (My classmates, unfortunately, were less captivated by this factoid than I’d hoped). However, if my recyclables are recycled correctly, my personal contribution isn’t grotesque. I live in a scale-free apartment (with two other girls, who knew?) but I’ll call it a fair estimate that my trash falls far below the average American’s 7.5 pounds per week.
dscn2993.jpg(This has been a nomadic weekend for me so I’m missing some plastic wrap from leftovers I had for dinner, a styrofoam cup from OJ at work and a salad bar container).

I’d say 95% of my trash is related to food. My daily granola bar wrapper, snack size m+m’s, salad bar plastic containers, anything messy, paper towels for covering microwaveables– they all end up in the trash can. I’m never home, but snacking continuously, which results in lots of little, single-serving and individually wrapped throw-aways.
I can think of two possible solutions: 1. Go on a diet (“possible” in no way represents “likely,” mind you)
2.Buy in bulk and use reusable tiny tupperware to transport

I used to think that recycling yielded zero-waste. Thinking back, it was my speeches implicit thesis. I’m learning now that the process of recycling is sometimes inefficient, uses plenty of energy (though less than producing virgin materials) and can require lots of transport, which wastes fuel. Reduce, reuse, recycle seems be in descending order of which deserves the most focus.

Where you can’t reduce, however, I still think recycling’s the answer, but not even necessarily from an environmentalist standpoint. I used to take my sandwich/chip lunch in two new Ziplock bags each day. When down to my last two, my stinginess led me to the more ecologically sound practice I use today: Reuse the same two bags forever and ever. Recycling also helps me with stress management. I enjoy few things more than hurling my empty glass bottles into the recycle bin in mock rage. That intentional shattering isn’t welcome just anywhere, you know.

-Sonya English


4 Comments so far
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Sadly, it is more difficult for some to realize how much waste we are producing as a nation. It is hard to understand, “Why weren’t their jaws touching the floor at that remark!?” It really sucks.
I was also one of those kids who had a new sandwich and chip plastic ziploc baggie for each day. I’m glad we are all coming to the consensus that we can change our habits just a bit, which will actually make us all feel better in the end.

Comment by denah

I used to have a mess under my sink for recycling, but I got these recycle bag hangers from http://www.createsomespace.com ; since I have a small apartment, they really helped me to keep things organized and to save space. If you can’t reduce, keep recycling!

Comment by Beverley

Ohh, that was good! Recycling as stress-management was not something I considered. In fact, recycling at the Wal-mart makes me stressed out. No one looks happy. Recycling at Checkers is faster and easier, and perhaps more fun. But most fun is recycling Cans for the Community – keeping aluminum out of the waste stream and earning money for local non-profits. Stress-free and joyful.

Comment by j500

I think I’ll have to check out Checkers (I’ve thought for several seconds and can’t think of a better, less obnoxious looking way to say that) but I will say that recycling at Wal-Mart doesn’t stress me out. Well, other than freezing my tush off running back and forth from my car, but Wal-Mart’s not to blame there. I feel kind of inspired. There are always lots of people dropping off loads of recyclables. When I’m at an apartment where the trash can is filled with 20oz bottles, aluminum cans and newspapers, I feel discouraged– like there’s no way that the population at large will ever really care. At the recycling center, I feel the opposite– like wow, these people are recycling things I didn’t think to save. It makes me want to do more, and I’m glad to see many people stepping up.

Comment by Sonya

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