Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Collapse XII Trash

02 July 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

The oddest thought just occurred to me and I realized that it is a question that, while undoubtedly not burning in your mind, is none the less relevant: what do I do with my trash?

(Yes, dear friend – I know it is not a burning question. I just wanted an excuse to write).

Oddly enough, I was practicing the concept of “Zero Waste” unconsciously even before everything began to break down personally and professionally – by the time of the sale of the house, we were generating less than 1 bad a week in trash and a great deal more in recyclable materials (although our efforts to reduce our outflow did not in any way reduce our trash bill. A very odd way to encourage waste reduction, by my thinking). A great deal of this was due to more carefully culling the recyclables of course, combined with a decreasing household size as well. We were down to 1 bag of trash a week and a container full of recyclables when….well, when things started to go in an undesired direction.

It is an odd thing, is it not? Society demands that everything be properly packaged to prevent contamination, soiling, and destruction, yet decries the use of the packaging that it demands. We use energy and materials to create something that is theoretically demanded, then disdain the fact that we need the materials in the first place – on the other hand, most people demand their fruit and vegetables come packaged rather than just picked because they might “get dirty”. Madness.

Up here, things are a bit less “structured”.

The trash truck does not come – about a mile down the road are two large containers, one for garbage and one for recyclables, which are periodically transported along to somewhere else. The whole thing is somehow paid for by the sewer tax.

But what happens, of course, when the trash truck no longer comes?

Fortunately my habits of minimizing trash have carried with me – helped (thankfully) by a wood stove that will cheerfully burn my combustibles. I have made a habit of buy in bulk where possible as well, so that my overall amount of discard is less. My ongoing compost bin consume my organics that I generate, and I have been testing different methods of composting fish parts (my number one organic non-compost pile item).

There are a certain number of items that do not fall in to any of these categories, of course: cans and plastics are the biggest offenders, old items that I no longer want or need and cannot otherwise repair or donate as well. For now, I carefully collect them and ferry them a mile away; should things become worse, I suspect this will not be a problem at all as I doubt those things will be available.

Until then, I follow the well-worn trifecta of “reduce, reuse recycle”.

Your Obedient (and Recycling) Servant, Seneca.


  1. I remember a time when packaging was not only repurposed instead of being thrown away, but actually DESIGNED to be repurposed after its contents was used. Remember the jelly jars that were actually drinking glasses with vacuum-sealed lids on them? Remember Log Cabin pancake syrup? It came in a container shaped like (wait for it) a log cabin, and was intended to be used as a coin bank afterward.

    My dad screwed the lids of baby food jars to 2x4's, filled the jars with nuts, bolts, and whatever, and screwed them into the mounted lids. It was a highly handy small parts rack! Coffee cans served a similar purpose. The bottoms of empty bleach bottles were cut off to create gas funnels and boat bailers. Soup cans were cut, flattened, and used to patch holes in the muffler on the car.

    Seldom was an empty soda bottle seen on the side of the road. They were returnable. As kids, we used to gather up whatever we could find and turn them in to fund the next baseball, hockey puck, or package of fishing bait.

    Indeed... "green" is not a place we're headed to, but a place we left a long time ago. Once again, humanity has given something up in exchange for "convenience..."

    "Use it up, wear it out. Make do, or do without..."

  2. Pete, I am old enough to remember all of those things. And I still have some of those baby food jars in my garage, holding nuts and bolts and nails (as did my father before me). And I do still like the metal coffee cans - useful things for this and that.

    I like your green comment very much. We exchanged it for convenience, and we are the poorer (and less inventive) for it.


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