CAN TWO OLD RECYCLERS BE TAUGHT NEW TRICKS? THE FINLEYS PONDER ZERO WASTE
About 25 years ago, a young, enthusiastic UW ecology student interviewed us about our recycling habits for a class project. We gave her an example of how we handled tea bags, sorting the bag into compost, the string into a string ball and the tag and staple into recycling. Maybe a little extreme and even a pain in the neck for recyclers to deal with all this minutia, but it shows our dedication to the practice which goes back decades into our young adult lives. So, when Nikyta announced the Year to Zero Waste (Y2Z) Program, it didn’t seem like such a radical concept to either of us.
Obviously, what goes in the trash starts with your choices when you shop. And a real gut-punch is the realization that even recycling is not actually sustainable. It is no longer enough to transfer an item into another form (or ship it somewhere else out of sight like China), but much higher on the resilience spectrum is reuse. When the Lopez dump made the announcement about changes in recycling plastics, the next time we went to Blossom we walked around making an inventory of all the items we would have to replace with ones in reusable containers or refrain from purchasing. Like dairy products in glass, particularly returnable milk and cream bottles. Like choosing single tomatoes rather than the more tasty cherry versions in plastic. Like bringing plastic and paper produce bags to reuse. We’ve started using our Instant Pot (combination pressure cooker/crockpot) to make our own yogurt. Still it isn’t possible yet to eliminate everything.
A recent analysis of our two-person household’s trash showed primarily plastic bags, lids and containers from kitchen and toiletry items, waxed paper ice cream boxes, and hard-to-compost items like peanut shells, avocado pits, and meat scraps. Alternatively, the uncompostable food can go into a refuse pile in our forest. But how to get around all this plastic??? We have cut down to what we consider the bare minimum – taking a 32 gallon contractor size garbage bag to the dump every 2-3 months.
Can we challenge ourselves to do better?