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Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Year of No Trash
Last week the trash company dropped off our new bins. We've lived here at the ranch for almost 14 years. For years we put out our recycling bin with bottles, cans and plastic in it every week. About once a month we would wheel out the trash bin which would be about a quarter full.

Finally, we called the trash company and asked if we could get a reduced rate for not putting out any trash, just recycling. Long story short, the answer was a two-yard dumpster. The recycling went out every week and about once every eighteen months we would pay to have our two yard bin of trash hauled away. This all worked fine until about a year ago when the trash company was bought out by another waste management enterprise. (Why is it as I type that phrase I think of Tony Soprano?)

None the less, we were informed that our two yard trash bin would have to be emptied weekly, with the same charge for each emptying that we'd been paying to have it emptied once every year and a half. We told the company to come pick up the bin and they took it -- and all our recycling bins. Suddenly, we were without trash pickup. At first, it was no big deal.

We took out a couple of old garbage cans and began putting recyclable newspapers and cardboard in one, glass, plastic bottles and cans in another. We took the returnable bottles from beer and soda pop to the store recycling place. We fed our table scraps to the chickens and dogs, composted things in our compost pile that the animals wouldn't eat.

But there are a few things we were troubled by. Chicken bones, for instance, which can't safely be fed to the dogs, aren't appropriate for the compost pile because the dogs would dig down two feet to find them. Or ... used facial tissues. Or fish packaging. Or... well, you get the idea. It came down to about a small plastic shopping bag full of stuff every three or four days.

We began to really pay attention to the wrapping on products we purchased. I grew to hate molded styrofoam packaging. Rigid plastic molded around small items to make them harder to steal is a trash hog. Those items weren't recyclable anywhere (really only plastic marked PETE1 and PETE2 are recyclable, the rest of the labels are a scam, you put them in recycling and they go into the landfill.) I bought rice and grains in bulk where the only wrapping was a plastic bag which I could then re-use. We stopped using large ziplock bags to freeze garden veggies and started to use recycled yogurt containers.

But this past week we came to the final straw. We needed to replace both a computer and a dishwasher and there was no way to avoid having them go to electronics recycling or landfill. So we signed up for trash pickup because there was a dropoff site for large items and electronics and it was cheaper to get trash pickup again than to take the computers and dishwasher to the landfill.

At the computer dropoff site we looked at a mountain of outmoded equipment and then offloaded our addition. It is a totally unique feeling to push a computer and data storage peripherals that cost thousands of dollars off the back of a pickup into a recycling pile. They stood next to discarded CRT's and other computers, though ours were cleaner and better preserved than most of the rest. After 13 years, they were silent testimony to the passage of time and how our lives have changed.

Today I began to assemble their replacements. Half the size. Twice the processing power. Ten times the storage. And the whole assembly will use much less power.

Oh. And I still have three CRT's that work fine and are up for grabs. They just aren't fast enough to work with the new system. I hope to find someplace to donate them.