I have a confession to make…
This is our garbage from the last weeks. It’s approximately two square feet of waste, about 5pds. We burn some of our garbage to avoid filling our land with it. Even biodegradable waste sometimes takes years to do so and no one wants to stare at their garbage for years.
Maybe you’re thinking not bad, right, in terms of the volume? And honestly it is a serious reduction of from the amount of waste we produced when we lived in the US. But what the photo does not show is; buried in the more benign waste there is plastic. Wrappers from cookies and spaghetti, and if that were not criminal enough, a few plastic bags that I was either too lazy to untie the supernaturally tight knots Dona Drygoods ties, or to wash out because they were just too greasy or sticky.
Not only do I feel like a bad person, I feel like a fraud because I write this touchy feely “back to the land” blog, while twice a month I release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. So, though I refuse to give up eating pasta, or bake every cookie we put in our mouth (Felipe likes them with his coffee). I have vowed to untie every knot and wash every bag, as my new year’s resolution.
This is our recycling from the last two weeks.
We are very fortunate, in that we are able to recycle our plastic bottles, which we reuse first if we can. And I can take my glass bottles and my plastic bags, even the groady ones, to the store where they reuse them, for mescal and dog food. So you see, I really have no excuse to burn a single plastic bag.
In my defense I will say we reuse a lot of our garbage, for example egg cartons. I use egg cartons as: baking trays and to drain my fried foods, bead trays, seed pots and organizers, if they are not full of food(which attracts my cats and causes havoc in my pile) I compost them when they’re no longer useful. Pieces of foil, the paper from tortillas, most cardboard are all reused until thread bare.
In regard to the pasta and cookie wrappers, I admit this shortcoming and I choose it. For me, this is what is important; I will do my best and acknowledge the truth of my actions, without rationalizing.
This, my favorite passage from The Man who Quit Money, spoke beautifully to me on the subject of plastic bags. It made me laugh, and love Mark Sundeen and people, because we try.
How many times have I stood at the kitchen sink paralyzed by a plastic baggie? If it were clean having held, say, a sandwich, I’d simply rinse and reuse it. But this one is smeared with mustard and rancid cheese and even a bit of mold. My instinct is to throw it away. But as we have learned, there is no such place as “away”. This plastic bag if it doesn’t end up clogging the intestines of some dolphin or albatross will swirl at sea for decades, and even if it breaks down into tiny pieces, it will never fully decompose: its toxic petrochemicals will haunt us forever.
Bu then I think: That’s ridiculous. It’s just one baggie. And the washing of it will not only be a singularly unpleasant use of time, but won’t I be using precious water to wash it? And burning natural gas to heat that water? Not to mention the resource depletion and damage represented by the soap.
And by now I wasted five minutes thinking about this, time that could have been better spent picking up plastic bags along the river.
So I chuck the thing in the trash, but the next day at breakfast it’s still there, staring up at me accusingly. And the gears or my mind spin. Eventually, one day in the future, I’m going to need a plastic sandwich bag. And when I do I’m going to buy a box of them, thus giving my hard-earned money to Ziploc Corporation, or whoever, who doubtlessly engages in all sorts of toxic practices to manufacture these things—I imagine a factory spewing brown sludge into the river, somewhere in the rust belt, or maybe China. And I will also be enabling my box of baggies to be hauled across the nation on gas-guzzling trucks that grind up taxpayer –funded hiways, which carve through the habitat of grizzlies and moose and antelope, driving them toward extinction, and so on.
Finally I had to ask my therapist about this, and he said, “Why don’t you try going outside and growing something. “
“But now we must cultivate the garden” Voltiare
Two hundred and fifity years later it’s still good advice.
Check out the plastic bag art! It’s a cool blog too.
- Pascale Marthine Tayou: Plastic Bags (collabcubed.com)