Matters of Opinion

The Latest Thinking on Garbage: You can’t just think outside the box…you have to recycle the box

cc garbageI don’t have to tell you how much garbage is in the news lately since the deadline is approaching that will force every town on Cape Cod to renew its contract with SEAMASS, the facility over the bridge that burns our trash and turns it into energy. Costs are expected to double or even triple. The Cape, of course, is not alone. It’s said that American communities spend more on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks.

payt2The good news is that the more it costs per ton to get rid of trash, the more we’re encouraged to decrease the number of tons of trash we get ride of. And to recycle the rest. The hottest new theory on how to encourage people to do that is Pay As You Throw, a system that’s already being used in about a hundred and forty Communities throughout the Commonwealth, some of them here on the Cape.

Here’s how it works: residents purchase a reduced rate dump sticker as well as town-issued trash bags. These bags are the only ones accepted at the landfill. Recycling is free. You pay only for what you throw away.

There are some objections. The first is that people will be encouraged to save money by throwing stuff away in the woods. The truth is most towns have not seen an increase in illegal dumping. Probably because all people realize all those old catalogs they throw away can be traced back to them. Maybe because there’s almost nothing you can’t get rid of at the swap shop.

Some people say that large families are penalized by Pay As You Throw because they have more people, and therefore more garbage.

But others ask if it’s been fair all these years for a retired couple with a pet poodle who visits the dump with two bags of trash a week to subside the garbage truck driven in by the Brady Bunch.

pelletsWhen it comes to families with small children, diapers are frequently mentioned. Well, there are companies that create fuel from dirty diapers, both baby diapers and … the other kind. They’re simply deposited into a machine that “pulverizes, desiccates, sterilizes, and then reduces them into a bacteria free, odorless, pellet that can be used in biomass boilers or heating systems.

The fact that these companies are in Canada and Japan only means there’s an opportunity brewing here on the Cape. It’s well to remember that the first woman billionaire in China came to America as a penniless immigrant. Understanding that her native country suffered a vast shortage of paper, she went all over the Los Angeles area in an old Chevy van collecting used paper and shipping it back to China. I only wish I knew when I was a kid that I could have made more money picking up old newspapers than delivering them.

Doing my research on diapers I discovered some information on another tricky subject, pet poop. Did you know that in some countries manure is used as furniture polish? It’s smeared by hand onto a table and polished to a high shine. They say that when dry, the dung has no odor at all. Do you have dogs or cats? Me, too. But I haven’t tried this yet so why don’t you let me know how it goes for you.

Most landfills have a Salvation Army bin for clothes but there are people, myself included, who still think they may someday be able to fit into their jeans from college and are reluctant to throw them away.

chairNo problem. Just stuff them into plastic mesh modular units that are designed to be strapped together to form furniture. It’s called the Fill-it furniture system. L-shaped couches, easy chairs, ottomans. How about making a slip-cover with the old velvet drapes?

But the most cutting edge technology I’ve discovered goes way beyond Pay As You Throw. It’s DNA storage. You heard me. Right now at Harvard and Stanford they are storing archival media in molecules of life. They convert information into digital code first and then into the DNA alphabet and then use those sequences to construct genetic material. According to one scientist, it’s compact, lightweight and can potentially remain intact for thousands of years if stored in a dark cool environment. Imagine the contents all your books, CD’s, and file cabinets in a piece of fruit cake.

So just remember, when it comes to saving the environment its not enough to think outside the box. You have to recycle the box.

I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.

Matters of Opinion are Ira Wood’s short, personal, often rather odd takes on current events. They wrap up the WOMR News on most Fridays at 12:30 PM and are available as podcasts HERE. Feel free to email Ira to tell him what you think.