Friday, September 30, 2016

A Stubborn Footstool

I took this picture on July 22, and now, more than two months later, that footstool is still sitting out in front of this house. Or at least it was about a week ago, when Olga and I last walked past. Clearly the trash collectors have decided it doesn't fit their criteria for collection.

Yesterday may have been the quietest day I've ever had in the library. The high school students were still gone on their school trips, and the middle school kids must have been busy doing their own thing, because I sat at my desk and read. Only at the end of the day did it occur to me that I should have seized the opportunity to weed some of the fiction shelves. We have a lot of decrepit paperbacks -- two whole shelves of donated Tom Clancy books, for example, including some not even written by Clancy himself -- that never get checked out. They really need to go. Maybe I'll work on that today.

The book I'm reading, "Garbage Land," about the world's waste management problems, is enough to make me never want to buy another packaged item ever again. If even biodegradables never disintegrate in the dry, mummifying environment of a landfill, and plastics never break down beyond micron-sized pellets that persist in the environment forever, and the market for recycled glass and plastic is so weak that those items often get discarded -- well, it's enough to produce despair in an ecology-minded reader.

I need a happy book. Maybe Tom Clancy. NOT.

I walked home from work and popped in to Homebase, our big-box home supplies retailer, and bought two new bird feeders (one designed especially for goldfinches) and some mildew cleaner for the bathroom. (The bird feeders were blessedly devoid of packaging, but the cleaner comes in a plastic bottle.) I also bought Dave a new plant -- a type of grass with tufts like squirrel tails that he seemed to really like. But the minute I brought it inside he began sneezing and complaining of allergies, so now it's sitting outside. Which is where it belongs anyway.

Dave wanted to order take-away for dinner last night, and we did. But talk about waste! The bag and the plastic containers, and the plastic silverware and napkins and wooden chopsticks -- argh! I usually wash the containers and re-use them, but we already have a cabinet stuffed with them. It all makes me crazy.


Sarah said...

I have seen the same squashed mini bottle of wine in the same place at the curb for the last three weeks on my walk to work. I should pick it up next time I see it-then add it to landfill I suppose. Monday morning is rubbish day here and people leave all sorts of stuff out, which is as often collected by passers by as by the refuse collectors. When I put an ink in my printer the other day it struck me there are four layers of packaging. The tab, the foil bag, the card packet and the outer plastic packet. Ridiculous and depressing. I think perhaps I won't read that book! Hope you find a more cheerful one soon.

Anonymous said...

It is terrible how much plastic we use. A couple of years ago I saw a film about plastic in the oceans and since then I avoid plastic whereever possible and I don't use any kind of plastic bags. To displeasure of supermarket cashiers who have to pick up every single pepper or apple from the belt. But still there's too much plastic. Why do they wrap cucumbers?

Many stores here now don't offer plastic bags, you have to bring your own bag. When I go shopping (food or clothes) I know in advance that I need a bag or box and I always wonder how many people still ask for a plastic bag.

I'm not sure if I could read this book about garbage, it would be too depressing.

utahDOG! said...

Keep "Red Storm Rising". It may be relevant again and soon!

Ms. Moon said...

I am reading "Emotionally Weird" by Kate Atkinson and it is, on some level, the funniest book I've ever read. Very, very good.

Red said...

Right on with the packaging issue. The large chemical plant I showed a few posts back makes the basics for plastics and thus packaging. I'm sure the footstool is not touched because of the ugly color which wouldn't go with anything.

ellen abbott said...

I'm with you on the whole plastic and packaging thing. We had take out last night too. fortunately only one dinner as it was enough for the both of us but yeah, styrofoam, plastic utensils, plastic bag. I recycle as much as I can but styrofoam is the one thing I can't find anyone to take. I'll even collect those peanuts until I have a bag full and take them to the box store where they will at least get used one more time.

Lynne said...

If you really want to be sickened about how wasteful we are as a race, visit a dump aka "landfill". They have got to be the grossest thing on this Earth. Okay, let's just bury it in the ground ... no problem, no matter what it is.

jenny_o said...

I find that books like that and books on the inhumane treatment of food animals to be depressing to the point I feel overwhelmed and unable to do anything. So I avoid them, and doggedly keep doing what I can. We have an excellent recycling program in our province, so that helps. And I buy humanely raised meat as much as possible, and we've cut back on meat overall. But still ... yeah ... there's so much more being put into landfills and into the oceans and waterways by those who don't give it a second thought.

37paddington said...

My mother washed and reused aluminum foil and ziploc bags. And she, like you, had a drawer full of plastic containers, also washed and reused. She could not even discard a yogurt container. It, too, has its uses. Actually it drove me a little nuts, but I loved it about her.

Jenny Woolf said...

I've steeled myself to chuck away packages for ready meals etc. I do reuse jiffy bags whenever I can, and bits of cardboard, bubble wrap, etc. I had been feeling quite good about recycling paper but then heard that Camden is one of the worst boroughs for recycling, apparently.

Catalyst said...

I'm always amazed at the amount of packaging around the smallest item. We get our prescriptions by mail and recently a tiny box containing a tiny bottle of medical eye drops came in a styrofoam cooler with several plastic cold bags inside a carboard box because it had to be kept cool. Terrible.

The Bug said...

It really is very depressing. I always carry my own bag in my purse so that I don't use plastic ones - and I even got some mesh bags to put produce in at the grocery story - but so many of our meals have all this packaging. We recycle almost everything - but as you say, does that really get used? Sigh.

Alphie Soup said...

It takes much time and effort to be environmentally aware and I am short of ideas for a happy book.

I've just skimmed through my list of library reading for the past year and I do not see any happy books. Oh dear!


Steve Reed said...

Sarah: Printer ink cartridges are the WORST, although apparently the cartridge itself can be recycled and/or reused. Reading this book has made me contemplate garbage in the grand sense -- the semi-absurdity of moving it from place to place when, in the end, it's always with us!

Kaki: I do carry a reusable bag, which helps a lot. I think any little step we can take toward consuming less (certainly less plastic, but also less overall) helps.

Utah: I did keep that one, and also his other "classics."

Ms Moon: I'll have to check that one out!

Red: The color has been changing over time! It's faded more since I took that photo.

Ellen: Well, at least you're reusing the peanuts! Every little bit helps, although apparently residential garbage is actually a tiny, tiny percentage of the overall waste stream -- something like 2 percent. Most waste comes from industry.

Lynne: Denial is a river in Egypt!

Jenny-O: But see, you ARE doing something. I think we have to know about these issues, even if that knowledge frustrates us and causes us pain. It inspires us to do what we can, which is better than burying our heads in the sand. Right?

37P: I draw the line at yogurt containers, but my grandmother was the same way!

Jenny W: I didn't know that about Camden. I wonder why? They certainly collect our recycling reliably.

Catalyst: I'm always amazed when I visit a hospital and look around to see all the plastic and throw-away items. Hospitals, and the medical and pharmaceutical industries in general, must generate such a tremendous quantity of waste.

Bug: I carry a bag too, thanks to Linda Sue, who mailed it to me! I used it just a few nights ago at Homebase, actually.

Alphie: We should start a public campaign for happy reading material. Ha!

Sabine said...

Just to tell you how incredibly fantastic and good I am (warning: delusions of grandeur):

My new year's resolution this January was to cut down/out plastic packaging.
I fought a major battle with my local pharmacist who insisted that I can only get my meds if they are handed to me in a small plastic bag with the prescription stapled on to the rim. The plastic bag is so ridiculously tiny all you can do is throw it away. Anyway, I won.

I go shopping with a couple of fabric bags and an old fashioned basket and I unwrap all packaging that I cannot avoid at the counter when I pay. Most check out staff get the point. And no more plastic bags, free or paid for.

Last year, I stopped plastic water bottles. As tap water is excessively tested (and clean) here, I just fill a reusable flask if I need to bring water and on my desk at work I have a big water bottle I refill at the tap.

The next challenge are coffee to go cups, because even the so-called paper ones are lined with plastic. For some reason, most coffee sellers are legally bound to not accept bring your own, so I may have to prepare for another battle.

All in all, it serves as distraction if anything.