The popular topic of recycling drew submissions from three totebaggers.


by LauraFromBaltimore

Following up on our recent thread on recycling, this article suggests that it is significantly overrated:

The Reign of Recycling

In the interest of full disclosure, the article dove me nuts — it was like a clever legal brief that cherry-picks facts and makes apples-and-oranges comparisons to lead to a misleading premise. For example, why talk about all of the extra recycling trucks on the road and ignore all of the extra trucks and miles that would be necessary to ship regular waste out to this farmland that some unidentifiable states are apparently so eager to convert to landfills? Why measure bottle recycling to cross-country flights, instead of, say, the costs of manufacturing them from scratch? Why point out the composting facility that was forced to shut down while totally ignoring the huge citizen opposition to the new landfills and incinerators he advocates? (I have been tangentially involved in a couple of those, and I can tell you, it is about as ugly as you can imagine).

All of which frustrates me, because I do think he has a point — I just struggle to see it through the rhetoric and stacked comparisons. I would love to see an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of recycling vs. the various other disposal options.


Proactive not Reactive

by Grocery Bags

In my town, you have to pay for curbside recycling pickup. It is a mixed bin with lots of restrictions – only 1 and 2 plastic and no glass. We are definitely not this!:

Here’s a Clip from Portlandia Season Two: Recycling!

In the neighboring town, there is no curbside recycling and my friend complains that hauling her recycling to a drop-off center makes her feel like it is still 1997. Then I read this article (similar to the NYT articles) and posted it to FB.

American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why

But in response to the economic arguments, one of my friends said, do we pay the price now (by paying to recycle or maybe subsidizing recycling companies maybe) or later (by having to clean up our land and water) and quoted William McDonough: “There is no away”

Honolulu Mother posted an article a while back about Costco that said the one near her was the world’s busiest. That reminded me of the last time I was in Hawaii for vacation. I saw a family hauling their Costco purchases, including a case of bottled water (the worst thing on Earth, IMHO), into their condo, and I thought, this is an island! Where do these people think the trash and recycling go? I know, they don’t think about it, but I do. (BTW, I learned there is at least one waste-to-energy facility on Oahu, but I don’t think it accepts trash from the other islands.)

So my personal, Totebaggy goal is simply to try to consume less upfront. Be proactive – fill up reusable bottles rather than buy bottled water – and not reactive – because it appears that recycling is not going to save us from ourselves.

What about you? Do you care what happens to your trash and recycling?


And from WCE:

Let’s Modernize Our Environmental Laws


70 thoughts on “Recycling

  1. Well, I don’t have anything brilliant to say. I’ve been aware for years that recycling is problematic; there was a good article in Popular Mechanics about it quite awhile ago. But it’s an item of religious faith for most of my friends, so what am I going to do about it?

  2. All right, I’ll start…we do the blue bin thing. We possess 4 of the “box” size bins and usually put a couple of them filled with empty milk jugs, bottles, cans (at least rinsed) and newspaper, junk mail, magazines at the curb each week. Sometimes there is more, or enough broken-down cardboard boxes that they are also set out. Plus 1 45 gallon trash can (the most common toters the trash companies issue/rent to you are 90 gallon). I am pretty good about the now-empty bottles, jars, cans, plastic fruit containers, newsprint and its ilk, and junk mail. But I don’t worry too much about e.g. making sure all recyclable paper, like stuff we’ve printed but no longer need goes in the recycling. Sometimes it’s just easier/faster/(and apparently) cheaper to toss in it the nearest trash can.
    We have $0.05 deposits on most* drink cans and bottles so those are separately accumulated and either donated to a bottle/can drive coming thru the neighborhood or returned for cash at the grocery store.

    * $0.05 applies to: carbonated drinks (soda, beer), bottled water. But not e.g. Snapple bottles, Arizona Iced Tea cans, energy drink cans (Monster, Red Bull, etc), wine/liquor/champagne bottles.

  3. I personally think that less packaging could make a big difference. I used to be able to buy veggies in bulk but now everything is wrapped in cellophane and placed on styro trays. I used to drink out of the ubiquitous water fountains that were everywhere – now we have to buy bottled water. The increase in packaging is crazy

  4. We have single stream recycling – all our items go into one big bin. Our recycle bin is picked up once in two weeks and it is large enough to hold all the recyclables that a typical household generates. The biggest nuisance is breaking down cardboard boxes – we have more of these due to online shopping. The cardboard pieces really fill up the bin and then I have to shove all the rest of the stuff so that everything fits. If we can’t fit everything at one go, we have to wait for the next pickup. I haven’t been to a recycling center here at all. We can call the city to pick up large items from the curb. In the northeast we had to take our large items to a recycling facility.

  5. I think another aspect that the WaPo article touches on is the changes in packaging types — e.g., tin/aluminum being replaced by various plastics. I think a lot of these changes are being driven by companies’ own efforts to recycle, which in turn are probably $$-driven efforts to minimize packaging costs.

    So on the one hand, if you want to evaluate whether “recycling” as a whole is good or bad, I think you need to look at the whole story, not just the “individual consumer” standpoint. But if you are looking at whether the blue bins are cost-effective on a short-term basis, that’s a different story, because the manufacturers’ successful efforts to reduce packaging costs/waste mean that the consumer ends up with less-profitable and less-recyclable materials. I mean, it’s great that our legal pads are made of 10% recyclable materials — but that decrease the impact of our recycling efforts, as there are only so many times you can recycle paper/cardboard before the fibers break down too much to be useful.

    My current favorite is that my dairy has decided to go “100% green!” — meaning they will no longer give you your deposit back if the bottles come back with milk residue inside. So now each customer needs to individually clean each bottle (several gallons of hot water + dish detergent + find some stupid utensil that will reach the upper shoulders inside the bottles) — instead of, say, running one load through a properly-designed commercial bottle-washer. My usual reaction would be to put this in the same category as hotel “save the planet” towel signs, i.e., a money-saving effort disguised as a “save the earth” initiative to make a good impression instead of a bad one (“we’re too cheap to wash your towels every day”). Except I do actually think my dairy thinks it is trying to do the right thing — but they’re considering only a small piece of the picture.

  6. LfB, I wonder how good their tracking system is to connect milk residue with the consumer returning the bottles in order to deny the consumer the deposit. I want to believe the dairy still has to wash the bottles for public health reason so the initiative is a net loss.

  7. What is everyone’s opinion on the efforts to get rid of throwaway grocery bags? Some cities have banned them. We haven’t banned them yet, but the local supermarkets clearly would prefer to not have to provide bags. Our S&S now gives out plastic bags that are so flimsy that they develop holes by the time I get home, meaning I can’t use them for anything else (we had always reused our grocery store plastic bags as sacks for lunches, liners for trash cans, liners to keep books dry, etc)

  8. @Mooshi – our city hasn’t banned them. We too reuse our grocery bags – we feel quite not guilty at asking for our groceries to be bagged in plastic. We also reuse our paper shopping bags that we get from the stores. If I already have a shopping bag with me, I will put my newest purchase into the big bag I am already carrying. I also say no to tissue paper if it is a non breakable item/not a gift.

  9. throwaway grocery bags…
    on one hand, it’s the way of the world. On the other, it will force me to pick up a new habit of keeping some bags in my car at all times. Whenever I do the grocery run, usually on weekends, I just have them bag stuff. For DW’s big run during the week, she uses Wegmans reusable bags (and she always asks me why I don’t take them when I go there).
    I don’t know how many throwaway bags (which we use a la MM, or send them to the local food pantry so they can give their clients bags for their food) need to be saved to = the energy costs to make a reusable bag, but that might be interesting.
    > 20 yrs ago we bought a set of 4 sturdy canvas bags from a catalog that we used to take to the grocery store with us all the time. We used them for everything but meat. They’re still in great shape. The checkers hated having to use them…much less efficient for them since they didn’t hook onto anything or really stand up well.

  10. In western Europe, where resuable bags have been the norm at least since the 70’s, customers always do their own bagging. You never see a bagger there. So the customers deal with the weirdnesses of their own reusable bags, rather than the checkers

  11. BTW – my parents are always on the lookout for sturdy, not too big Totebags since many grocery stores in the home country will not provide you with a bag.

  12. Our bag law went into effect in July so I am trying to accustom myself to actually bringing the bags into the store with me instead of forgetting them in my trunk as I usually do. The little nylon bag-stuffed-in-a-bag that rides around in my purse has had many more outings than it used to.

  13. “or 10% recycled materials”

    Ah, crap. Or 100% recycled materials, which is what I *meant* to say.

    @WCE: Yeah, that was my thought, too. They are small and deliver only locally, and they track the # of bottles I return, so I assume they will catch it. But what’s the point, when they need to clean/sterilize anyway? When you have a half-empty jug in the fridge for a few days, the stuff at the top of the bottle hardens to the point it won’t soak off, and it’s almost impossible to reach with my limited tools. So I have decided I will do basic hot-water-soap-soak-and-shake, and if that’s not good enough, I’m going to read them the riot act about all the harm they are doing to the environment with their thoughtless, profligate new policy. :-)

  14. On the reusable bags: I have 4. And they always seem to be in the trunk of the car I am not in when I arrive at the grocery store.

    OTOH, I would happily pay 10c/bag if I could get the super-high-quality (and large) plastic bags I got last time I was in Europe. Man, those were awesome — we used them for dirty laundry, to pack lunches, to wrap liquids for the ride home, etc.)

  15. I have a couple of Thirty-One utility totes that have a rigid rim so they stand up & open on their own. These are perfect for groceries, and I try to keep them in my car. I had gotten really good at taking them to the store, but now that I have a dog again, I like to take in one good bag and get the rest bagged in plastic, which is then reused for doggy-duty.

    I have the same basic set-up for recycling as Louise. 2 rolling carts – one for trash and one for single-stream recycling. Trash pickup is every week but recycling only gets picked up every other week. My H was religious about always breaking down cardboard immediately and putting them in the bin, but I come from a family that never met a box it couldn’t reuse, and I have slipped right back into the habit of saving boxes from on-line purchases. It just seems so wasteful to me to destroy a perfectly good box, even if it is to be recycled. I believe in reducing waste first (when I can control it), then reuse what I can, then recycle.

  16. … To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in the front of the plane, it’s more like 100,000 bottles — and you have to make sure not to rinse any of them with hot water, because that little extra energy could more than cancel out any greenhouse benefit of your labors.
    I presume Al Gore and his fellow preachers are too busy to deal with all those bottles, so will they stay home? Or at least start flying coach?
    — John Tierney

    I figure if I skip one flight during my lifetime I’m good with getting new plastic bags each time I shop. One of our village trustees proposed a ban on plastic bags, and I was happy to be one of the residents vocally opposing it.

  17. it is a holiday here today, so we have a holiday garbage schedule this week. they will just pick up regular garbage once this week. They usually pick up our real garbage 2 days per week, and a third day is for recycling. We have paper one week, and the other week is everything else; my town refers to these items as commingled. We keep a bin in our kitchen next to the the regular trash pail, and I don’t find it difficult to save all of the items for recycling for a couple of weeks.

    Our elementary school eliminated most trips due to cost, but the second grades still go to the local recycling plant each year. It insures that every child knows about recycling, and it seems to work as I notice most kids know how to sort in school and home.

    I would miss plastic grocery bags because we do re use them, but I notice I did just make more of an effort to always grab a bag from my trunk when we visit CA. I did notice that all of my friends in northern and southern CA just buy plastic bags that they need for their homes. They all have dogs and kids, and they still use plastic bags.

    We spent some time in Toronto with our friends, and they have some serious trash rules. I know it might be better for the planet, but they do some serious garbage rules. I don’t think I could get used to composting in my home.

  18. We have the big blue bin and it gets picked up every week. I think we pay almost $2K per year for trash and recycling pick up as part of our taxes but not sure how much each is. We do recycle everything we can and try not to buy things with a ton of packaging (we probably do use our fair share of glass between our wine and Pellegrino habits.) We have recycling bins outside of our grocery stores where you can recycle your plastic and paper shopping bags which is great because I always forget those reusable bags.

    Did anyone read this?

  19. One benefit of having recycling be a “good” thing to do is that the markets for recycled goods are better. Companies are more aware of designing recycling capability into their processes. The father of one of my Eugene friends bought and sold recycled commodities back in the ’80’s and often the commodities wound up in the landfill because there was no market for them.

    We have the bag ban and I often end up paying $0.05 each for paper bags because the bags are in another vehicle or I don’t have enough bags for all the groceries I’m buying or I’m afraid the load will rip my reusable bags. (which were cheap or free) I am annoyed by the argument that each reusable bag saves hundreds of plastic bags, because it doesn’t count reusable bags that rip, are lost or the costs of (at least occasionally) washing them.

    Glass is separate where we are and the rest of recycling (other than motor oil) is commingled. We don’t generate all that much glass since many items (juice containers, peanut butter jars) that used to be glass are now plastic.

  20. “… To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in the front of the plane, it’s more like 100,000 bottles…”

    What am I missing? Why is the GHG impact of a first class ticket more than coach? What does the cost of the ticket have to do with how much fuel the plane consumes?

  21. A funny incident happened while we recycling. We had too much cardboard one pickup cycle so in addition to our large bin we used older small bins that the city had discontinued. Previously the city workers had cleared the smaller bins in addition to our big bin. A couple of days passed and then one family member went looking for our beloved small recycle bins. Everyone thought the others had hidden the bins in the garage. Turns out the city workers had taken our zealously guarded old bins.

  22. GB,

    An A380 is certified to carry 853 passengers. Korean Air configures their A380’s with 407 seats – 12 first class suits, 74 business class and 301 in economy. Passengers and luggage are IIRC 12-15% of a plane’s fully loaded takeoff weight. So, they could carry more than 2x as many people using only marginally more fuel if it wasn’t for first and business class.

  23. Ohhhhhh boy. We recycle. Our city has weekly curbside pick up in bins they gave us. Ours is overfilled every single week. We compost, both in a composter in the yard and in a curbside container from the city (though I confess we let stray peels of various kinds, as well as eggshells, get into the trash). We collect coffee grounds and DH puts them in the garden. We have a bunch of BPA-free water bottles so we don’t have to buy water in plastic bottles. Half-drunk water bottles get dumped into the dog bowls after we work out or return from a car trip or whatever. We save apple cores and DD takes them to the barn. On the rare occasions we buy a six-pack of tonic or whatever and it comes in those plastic rings, we cut the rings up before we stick them in the recycling. We have 25 reusable grocery bags at least, and if we ever end up with plastic ones (they love to wrap meat in them at the stores) we use those when we walk the dogs. I have fold-up reusable bags in my purse in case I find myself in a store and in need of a bag. I save twist ties. I wash and re-use ziplocks. If I reach the end of a loaf of bread while making sandwiches for lunch, I use the bread bag to wrap the sandwich, instead of saran. We choose things at the grocer based on packaging, foregoing things over wrapped. I don’t use produce bags–I just pile all the loose stuff onto the conveyor and then dump it into a reusable bag once it’s been rung up.

    But I am a *total slacker* compared to my Cdn family and friends. Everyone I know across the border has at least one cute little pottery sinkside compost container (like the one we use for our coffee) and every eggshell, coffee ground, apple core etc goes into it. They wouldn’t dream of letting a stray banana peel make it into the trash, or a piece of an eggshell. They all have garden compost bins and make daily trips out to them. My uncle used to then take it all from his home in Toronto to his farm a few hours away. My college roommate rinses out milk bags and then uses them as homemade Ziplocks for sandwiches, muffins, etc. My dad had us all taking Army showers throughout our childhood.

    Whether any of it makes a difference or not, this is a way of life I was brought up in, and my hippie city, for all its green love, isn’t nearly as extreme on this one as my 78-year-old mother. If there were scientific proof today that it isn’t helpful, I’m not sure any of them would change, or that I would, either. It’s like brushing your teeth or locking the doors at night — it’s all just *something you do* as part of your day, and not doing it would feel very strange. I could no sooner throw out a twist tie or a ziplock as I could go to bed with my teeth unbrushed.

  24. We have a worm bin for composting in the backyard. One time my MIL put her apple core down the garbage disposal at my house. Not the trash. Not the compost bucket on the counter. I was just shocked, but didn’t say anything and chalked it up to a generational difference.

  25. We don’t compost. I have idly considered it, but I don’t think I have enough room in my life for composting at this time.

  26. We did some apple picking this weekend. Yesterday, we had some fun throwing apple cores from the deck into the woods. But aside from this sort of recreational composting, I don’t bother.

  27. Which is a shame because the guinea pig and rabbit poop would probably really help the compost along.

  28. “What is everyone’s opinion on the efforts to get rid of throwaway grocery bags?”

    We have a new ban as of August 1, and I hate it. I use reusable bags for my weekly shopping runs, but I always like to have a stash of plastic ones – they are very useful for containing leaks when bringing my lunch, transporting wet bathing suits, using for garbage on car trips, etc. Now I am hoarding them. The ban is also silly as now the stores are just using heavier, bigger plastic bags which use even more plastic, and smaller stores still can use them (e.g., my neighborhood liquor store still uses the black bum bags and restaurants don’t count either).

    I also worry that discontinuing them is going to make the neighborhood dog poop situation even worse as people will have to actually purchase dog poop bags. We already have too much dog poop at the park/on our lawn.

  29. Grocery Bags – I sometimes think my FIL puts entire meals down the garbage disposal. He rents so I guess he doesn’t care, but he threw a bunch of ham and squash peel down ours once and it resulted in a $500 plumber bill.

  30. Grocery Bags — I’m your MIL. I like to dump everything I can into the waste disposal.

    It’s funny how a person can be clueless about how they’re doing something wrong in another person’s house. We don’t allow our dogs on the furniture, and once my BIL allowed his big dogs to climb on our couch. It was a big group and I didn’t feel like saying anything right then, which meant the dogs would go on the furniture every time they came over after that. (BTW, for our family get-togethers it is always assumed the dogs are invited too.) Finally I made up a story that we had just had the furniture cleaned so the dogs were no longer allowed on the furniture. So lame, I was ashamed of myself.

  31. One thing I learned is always get the most powerful waste disposal you can. I can put almost anything down ours, but I know stringy stuff can create problems.

  32. I was only mildly irritated about the plastic bag ban until I broke my leg last year and was on crutches. I was out of town and needed a small item from an office supply store. I managed to get the item to the front of the store, but I actually needed to be able to put the thing in a bag so that I could dangle it off my crutches as I hobbled out. It was not heavy, but too bulky to put in my purse. Apparently it was against the law to give or sell me a plastic bag. The store people carried it out for me, but it was needlessly humiliating. It was bad enough to be disabled without having constant reminders of how helpless I was.

  33. We don’t compost. We have enough trouble with possums, roaches, ants, and other animals.

    We do recycle, though. I’m 50-50 on bringing bags or getting the plastic ones at the store. I don’t think there will be a plastic bag ban in Texas anytime soon.

  34. We religiously recycle cardboard, plastic, glass and paper. The amount of actual trash is usually much smaller than the pile in the recycle bin. Once a week everything gets picked up, and we have single stream recycling, which is great – no sorting required. I toss a ton of stuff down the disposal. It never even occurred to me that this is something you don’t do. Knock wood, the only thing that gave us a problem were zucchini peels. We don’t compost. I guess I should but I can see the dog getting into it, not to mention other wild critters like raccoons and skunks. And I really don’t like worms. I know they’re good for the soil, etc. but I still jump when I see one. Forget about snakes . . .

    I bring my own bags to the store. Mooshi, my favorite bags are the nylon ones that fold up into themselves to create a tiny bundle that easily fits into your purse, so you almost always have one handy. For the longest time I could only get them in Europe. For bigger shopping trips, I keep a stash of heavier bags in the car.

  35. “To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach.”

    The negative effects of plastic bags aren’t just the greenhouse impact. I’ve seen a lot of them get blown into the ocean, where they will break down into very small particles and get into the food chain (possibly including the fish we eat) and/or contribute to the great garbage patch.

    I don’t see the big deal with not providing plastic bags. We do most of our grocery shopping at Costco, so we’re used to not getting the bags.

  36. LFB-I am intrigued that you buy your milk from a dairy. Do they deliver or do you go to the farm to pick it up? There are several diary farms around here but none sell their milk to families. Just wondering what the you think the advantages of that milk compared to milk from the grocery store.
    We feed all of our table scraps to the chickens, which in turn give us eggs, and eventually when that stops, they get turned into chicken soup.

  37. “There are several diary farms around here”

    I know what you meant, but what you posted still made me laugh.

  38. “We have the bag ban and I often end up paying $0.05 each for paper bags because the bags are in another vehicle or I don’t have enough bags for all the groceries I’m buying or I’m afraid the load will rip my reusable bags.”

    Do you drive on your grocery shopping trips? If so, can’t you just put the groceries into the cart to transport to your car, obviating the need for any bags? That’s how we do our grocery shopping. As we load the groceries into the car, we put the cold stuff into folding coolers we keep in the car, and bag some of the smaller stuff into reusable shopping bags, also kept in the car. Bigger non-perishable stuff (e.g., bags of rice) go straight into the car.

  39. “this is a way of life I was brought up in”

    Risley, I was brought up similarly. The root of that wasn’t concern for the environment, it was parents who grew up during the depression and the war who developed these habits which stayed with them through their lives.

  40. Finn, I often buy a hundred items and I don’t want to individually transport them from the cart to the back of the vehicle and then into the house. Mr WCE and I do vehicle swaps every day and we already have a stroller and soccer bin to deal with in the minivan. When our vehicles were entirely separate, I had the grocery bags, diaper/snack bag and jackets for the kids permanently in my trunk. Mr WCE did not like all the stuff in my trunk.

    In short, when I end up buying groceries other than my planned weekly run, I’m usually unprepared and paper bags are an easy solution. I have no moral qualms about them and local unemployment is up due to lack of demand for paper grocery bags. To the extent I use them, I’m keeping my neighbors employed.

  41. We get milk delivered from a local dairy. The advantage to us is that it’s much better tasting milk. The kids complain when we get store-bought milk that it tastes funny. But we don’t have to wash the bottles like LfB does. That would drive me bonkers because, like LfB said, they have to wash them again anyway.

  42. Finn, all you’re doing is substtuting bagging in the car for bagging in the store. How long is your drive that you need to put stuff in coolers?

  43. Murphy, we compost in the garden. We have 4 metal stakes forming a ~3′ by 3′ square/trapezoid with chicken wire on 3 sides. Produce scraps as well as dead jack o’lanterns, leaves and grass go there. (We don’t discard the jack o’lanterns, we “move them to the compost pile.”) When one pile gets full, we build another one at the rate of about one/year. In the spring when we till, we disassemble the old composter and the composted stuff gets tilled back into the garden.

    The boys like digging for worms in there.

  44. I grew up much like Risley, but like Finn it was because my parents learned those habits from grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. They also all lived on farms that were fairly self-sufficient, with bartering between neighbors and rare purchases from the grocery store. Every part of every plant & animal was used for something and/or returned to the earth. Of course, I was completely embarrassed by some of these habits as a kid and rejected them as an adult. And I don’t compost because I don’t garden, but I’m sure it’s only time until my town starts collecting banana peels and egg shells too.

  45. “all you’re doing is substtuting bagging in the car for bagging in the store.”

    Exactly. Thus forgetting to take the shopping bags into the store is not a big deal.

    “How long is your drive that you need to put stuff in coolers?”

    Usually 20 to 30 minutes, but that depends on traffic.

    I’ve seen other shoppers take their folding coolers into the store.

  46. “Just wondering what the you think the advantages of that milk compared to milk from the grocery store”

    @SF – Yes, they deliver. Basically, it tastes freaking awesome. I bought a half-gallon and tested it against storebought, and it wasn’t even a fair fight — skim tastes like whole, whole tastes like cream, cream is just this side of butter. Plus you can get the non-homogenized whole, with the cream top, which reminds me of my Midwestern childhood. :-) It’s a splurge — it’s more expensive than grocery store organic milk — but it quickly went right up there next to the housekeeper as a “necessary” indulgence.

    “I will compost over my dead body.”

    Well, that’s one option. . . .

  47. Yes, we too have a dairy in town; they don’t deliver but it’s also on our way multiple times/week. And I agree with everything LfB says re taste. That’s where the 1/2 & 1/2 I use in my home-brewed coffee is from. Just way better than the stuff from the grocery store…even the name brand stuff.

  48. “What do you guys do with the compost you’re generating?”

    Nothing. We do it to generate less trash. We talk about harvesting it, but have only once or twice.

    We only do veggie and fruit waste. No dairy, meats, etc. The worm bin has a heavy lid and sides and critters don’t bother it. We have had critters eat ground hornet and wasp nests though and that is an awesome service we welcome!

  49. I pay the $0.10 for paper shopping bags every so often so I have them to collect my recycling in the kitchen ;) My large single stream recycling bin is not in a convenient location outside so there is no way I am walking each individual item out, and we are not supposed to put plastic bags in the recycling container. So now I put paper shopping bags on my grocery list when I am running low.

  50. We have to pay 10 cents for a paper bag – I usually do because I use those paper bags to hold all of my recycling! The usual large paper bag is the exact size to fit right behind my garbage can in the drawer that is designed for that purpose. Then when it is full of all recyclables it fits very nicely in my recycling bin. Big stuff like paper towels I don’t put in a bag.

    Plastic bags have been outlawed, but I still get a thicker, heavier plastic bag at the butchers and an occasional restaurant – I guess they can be recycled.

    Risley – it looks like Jim Harbaugh is working out well for you all in Ann Arbor!!!

  51. Also, for compost, I put it in bio-bags in a small container under the sink, and bring them down to our green bin (for compost) when full.

    When it is just DH and me at home we are down to two trash bags a week, which is definitely less than we used to have!

  52. I just looked at our town’s pages of recycling instructions, quite detailed and included with a color-coded calendar that makes me feel like a nervous middle-schooler on the first day of class trying to figure out his schedule. Of course it’s all spelled out, but for many people with average reading comprehension or attention issues it might be difficult to follow. Here’s one small section that makes me nervous I might accidentally throw out a brochure with the regular trash, which could lead to a citation and refusal to pick up the “illegal” trash :

    DO: RECYCLE all newspapers, glossy inserts, phone books, magazine, brochures, catalogs, junk mail, brown paper bags, corrugated and grey cardboard boxes.
    HOW: Place in a brown paper bag, loose in the recycling bin or tied with twine. Flatten cardboard boxes inside each other. (Place these items at curbside for Wednesday pickup)
    DON’T: RECYCLE paperback or hardcover books, waxed cardboard containers (milk cartons), and Styrofoam. (These items are to be place at curbside for Tuesday bulk pickup).

    Here’s the holiday pick-up schedule:

    When a holiday occurs on Monday, garbage will be picked up on Tuesday and Tuesday bulk pick up will be collected with yard waste on Thursday.
    When a holiday occurs on Tuesday, bulk trash will be collected with yard waste on Thursday.
    When a holiday occurs on Wednesday, recyclables will be collected on Thursday.
    When a holiday occurs on Thursday, yard waste will be collected with bulk pick up on Tuesday.
    When a holiday occurs on Friday, garbage will be picked up the day before, Thursday.

  53. We have single stream and 2 giant recycling bins – you can get additional recycling bins for free (woohoo!) so all of our amazon prime and google express boxes can go in there. We usually only have a couple of bags of trash. I would worry if we couldn’t recycle as many things, but everything can go in there.

    I don’t compost very much except for yard waste and rotten stuff that comes out of the fridge – not food scraps or coffee grounds or eggshells, for example (although I should do that stuff! good reminder). We do have a big pile of composty stuff next to the garage and fence, but don’t do anything particular for it (no stirring etc.). I also don’t reuse plastic bags (those go into the recycling too), nor do I rinse stuff before I put it in the recycling.

  54. A point to be made about excessive and expensive recycling mandates is that when you combine them with the rational, evidence-backed reality of how much benefit they provide it can deepen a citizen’s mistrust of what they consider overreaching government activity. IOW, it can lead to increased cynicism about government and lawmakers.

  55. can deepen a citizen’s mistrust of what they consider overreaching government activity

    The citizens are the ones pushing for the mandates especially in places that have mandates.

  56. “The citizens are the ones pushing for the mandates”

    No doubt science deniers come from all political persuasions, but lobbyists and the corporations who aim to profit are also important in pushing mandates and various other wasteful green legislation (ethanol and Solyndra come to mind). In any case, the results don’t negate the legitimate frustration many citizens feel, and by itself can be used as an argument in support of keeping government small.

  57. We recycle and I think the best thing about it is that it gets people thinking about what they are using and where it all goes. I dont’ compost per se but since we have a large property with woods behind us, I save all organic material by the sink and dump the stuff back in the woods. I suppose some critters enjoy it but it also cuts down on the number of garbage bags we use.

    I support the plastic bag ban. Like Finn, I agree it is more about the pollution than the manufacture. They kill turtles and birds and last for freaking EVER! We pay for them, but I almost never take them. I keep the reusables in the car and for small trips usually my arms and those of my kids are sufficient to get things home if we forget the bags. I think so many people are so conditioned to expect every item in a bag that it is hard to walk out without one. Pet Peeve – people who bag things like bananas – the peel is a very effective barrier between your fruit and the outside world. You don’t need to put them in a plastic bag to then put them in another bag. As for the meat department and the copious bagging and rebagging – I’ve seen organs sent for transport that had less packaging. (steps off soap box)

  58. “I’ve seen organs sent for transport that had less packaging.”

    lol! I’m guilty of putting packaged meat in plastic bags because sometime the package leaks. But I don’t put bananas and other similar produce in bags unless I need to keep them together.

    One store that stands out for wasteful packaging is Talbot’s. I don’t know if it’s just our local store, but they wrap the clothes in lots of tissue paper, seal it with a sticker, and then put it in a large shopping bag. And this was just for a scarf!

  59. I put the meat in an additional plastic bag because I don’t want blood on the floor of my car. If I’m ever under investigation for murder, information like that in the news could poison a potential jury pool.

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