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Anything BUT black and white [Feb. 12th, 2008|12:24 pm]
You will be pleased to know that my policy of shaming myself has actually resulted in me bringing my re-usable bags into the store more often than not. Although I have risked homicide four more times by refusing a bag, having the cashier put my stuff in the bag anyway, pulling my stuff out and having to watch the cashier stuff the bag into the trash, or wad it into a ball in the corner, which we all know is just a trash precursor.

(You know, the part that falls under "other duties as assigned. The part that, when they do the flow chart of your work hours, that gets left off....)

It's a struggle, frankly, because like the whole paper vs. plastic issue...it's all a difficult and complex decision. What seems to be the naturally "correct" choice: use the "plastic" cup made from cornstarch that biodegrades...is not necessarily the right choice at all. Sure, it bio-degrades. In a compost pile/facility. If it goes into the trash stream, in a plastic bag, in a landfill...landfills nowadays are designed to not allow degradation. No water, no sun, no oxygen. Which means that cup will sit there, like plastic, for...perhaps ever.) Landfills are designed to be that way now to they don't leak toxins, etc into the groundwater. Or blow up. Or catch on fire. Or...whatever.

So, what good is that cup if it's going to hang in there just as long? Oh, sure, you can separate out the compostable items. Which would work just fine in my house -- but the average person is an idiot. (Sorry, but they are. Morally repugnant as it may be, I wish we'd spend as much time breeding ourselves for smarts as we spend breeding our dogs to look like toys.) I've worked events that had bins for "compostable/food waste", alongside of "recyclable" and "trash". And apparently, most of us seem to struggle with what those mean. I volunteered to oversee the cans, armed with a paintball gun and educate the public, but apparently the warm and fuzzy organizations that promote responsible waste disposal are not willing to go all the way to make it happen. Their loss. And another fantasy of mine shelved. We need fewer fairy-hugging vegetarian greenies, frankly, and a lot more vengeance is mine, I'll-teach-you-you-f'ing-irresponsible-redneck, hard-asses like me, is all I'm saying, if we really want to change behavior.

Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah, eventually we'll see foodwaste composting facilities, but in the short run, in all but a few scattered cities, it's still a fantasy. Like pegging a pink paintball onto some ignoramous who throws his cigarette pack in the composting pile...I'm obsessing now.

But still, it's made from renewable resources instead of petrochemicals, right? So that's better than...

Oh, but see, it's corn. If you're going to talk about treading lightly on the earth...corn isn't it. By the time you add up all of the petrochemicals used to grow corn, transport it, process it, all of the emissions caused, the fertilizers and pesticides used....you may actually be kinder to the earth if you use the damn plastic cup.

Oh, hey, this toilet paper is made from rapidly renewable fibers, trees that grow to maturity in under ten years so old growth forests aren't...but see, it's probably eucalyptus. And they clear cut a great swath of the rainforest to grow the stuff. The growing of which depletes the soil and leaves the ground damn near barren. And it escapes into the surrounding area and aggressively replaces native plants, crashing the ecosystem.....(Don't get me wrong, there's kenaf and some other more grass-like plants that are probably the answer...but driving demand for a more expensive product is tough.)

Agh! All of which is further complicated by very few...almost no one...doing unbiased scientific analysis of any of this. Everyone's got an agenda -- and as biased as I am against big corporations, I'm finding just as much, um, one-sidedness on the "green" side. (Although, in general, if I'm going to get f'd, give me a greenie. I'll at least get a hug and it probably won't cost me anything.)

Are there any clear-cut answers? Sure. Reduce use and waste. Do you need to take so many napkins when you get take out food? What are you doing, papering the inside of your car? Straw and a lid to go in the car, okay, straw and a lid to sit at a table...why don't you bring your own sippy cup, Cinderella, if you can't drink from the side like everyone else?

Anyway, I continue to wade and sift, call myself a pragmatic tree-hugger, and weigh the data, wait for the smoke and mirrors to clear and leave my paintball gun at home. Although I couldn't stop myself from reprimanding several of my colleagues who came to a briefing I did on this, carrying disposable coffee cups. "Is it so hard to rinse out a mug?" has become my signature meeting opening.

[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2008-02-12 06:26 pm (UTC)
I'm waiting for someone to figure out how to make paper out of kudzu. because then there'd be no problem...

I also go nuts at renn faires, even though I refuse to drink from plastic, because they have to measure it out that way, and then they throw away the emptied cup even if no lips have touched it! I'm thinking about bribing one barkeep to just keep my cup to measure for me, so I'll always go back to him, and at least it won't be a new cup thrown away every time....

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[User Picture]From: sestree
2008-02-12 06:26 pm (UTC)
All it would take for the general populace to be aware of what is 1) compostable 2) recyclable 3) safely burnable 4) none of the above is to have them have to manage their *own* trash for a while.

In the sticks of Kansas, you *pay* for the priviledge of recycling. Yes it's a charge just like picking up your trash ... which they don't do in the country anyway. So you haul it to the recycling plant (separated I might add or else the stares you get??? OMG). If not and it can't be either composted or burned you get the pleasure of hauling it to the county dump.

Trust me *anything* that looked like it might burn or compost WAS. I'm still aware of those things.

If they had to do it themselves then they would THINK !!!!!

I mentioned safely burn because yes you can burn plastic but upon one major hissy fit where I burnt every plastic item in sight (and some I had to look for) I discovered along with the pretty blue flames came some rather noxious fumes. The contact high was fun but the headache afterwards made me not wish to do it again...that and the fact that I got the fire so hot the burn barrel actually turned to dust in a few spots .....
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-02-12 06:57 pm (UTC)
You realize that if you succeed in your quest, you will reduce my home to an economic ghost town. Brandywine seems to be the world capital of landfills, rubble dumps, garbage trucks, and car junkyards. Oh, and we got two liquor stores and a tattoo parlor for class.

Before that, they were mostly tobacco farmers. This place is like CSPI's worst nightmare.
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[User Picture]From: im_geva
2008-02-12 09:55 pm (UTC)
I'm with you, TTurnip.

But herein lies the rub: The average person making less than, let's say, $20/hour just doesn't give a rats ass. They simply don't have the bandwidth to give a shit about recycling. They have to worry about making ends meet with their full time and part time jobs. It's really, really sad.

And let's not forget the corporate world - you oughta see how much perfectly recyclable cardboard goes out of the average warehouse on a daily basis.

Ugh. It' depressing, But as long as we keep trying, we'll continue to reduce waste.
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