Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Trash we don't see, trash we don't recycle.

Here is a scene from the mission where I help serve breakfast once a week.

It's 6 in the morning.  Before the guests come in, the volunteers and workers gather together to pray and eat.  Usually the chefs serve the volunteers, but this past week a new volunteer decides to help serve.  So, I hand my plate over.  "Potatoes, please".  She puts potatoes on my plate.

There is also, as always, oatmeal and also fresh fruit.   Usually, we serve these in styrofoam bowls -- the plates are washable, but washable bowls disappeared years ago (tossed in trash cans?  taken in people's backpacks? not sure), so oatmeal and fruit and such go in styrofoam.

I ask for oatmeal in one of the washable mugs instead of in a styrofoam bowl.  She puts the oatmeal in the mug.  Then I say, "could you put the fruit directly on my plate?"   The volunteer gives me a chipper, "why certainly!", and she puts the styrofoam bowl of fruit right on my plate.

The chef, behind her, intervenes.   "No,  Miser Mom doesn't want a bowl; just put the fruit on her plate".  The volunteer is now bewildered; she looks back and forth between the chef and me.  She wants a bowl of fruit on her plate, but she doesn't want a bowl on her plate . . . ?  The chef takes the ladle, scoops up some fruit, and puts the fruit on my plate.


It's scenes like these that remind me how differently I see the world than so many other people do.  Things that are invisible to other people scream out at me.  Trash!  Danger!

So in case you've missed it, I just want to point out another recent story about why recycling is not The Golden Answer to sustainable living.   Recycling is better than sending things to a landfill -- *if* recycling actually happens -- but if you want to be fiscally and ecologically healthy, avoiding the need to dispose of objects is infinitely better than either. 

And here's the latest issue with recycling:  we're starting to face a world in which not only is landfill-bound trash an economic and environmental problem, but so is recycling-bound trash.   In particular,  our main depository for recycling (China) has started refusing to accept our refuse -- see this link, for example.  I've seen this story pop up many times around me in the last few months.  My husband hasn't seen it at all, he tells me.  It's the styrofoam bowl at the rescue mission all over again:  in my face and invisible to others.

Still, I continue to pull a Nancy Reagan, and Just Say No to trash.  Also, to (try to) be gracious and thankful (but firm) when well-intentioned people put trash on my plate.   


  1. Why is it that people feel they can't have all their food on the same plate? I find that weird. Fewer dishes to wash (or throw away) means time saved for other things. Does it really matter if a little fruit juice runs into the potatoes? Really? Keep up the good work Miser Mom!

  2. Totally agree. I think even the environmentally conscious are susceptible to these sorts of blind spots. I once was reading a blog written by someone who was trying to be "zero waste." She was advocating things like eating in restaurants because it produced "less waste" than cooking at home. Similarly, she refused to buy canned cat food by the case because the case came wrapped in plastic... as if somehow it didn't arrive at the store that way anyhow. It's like if someone else throws out the trash for you it somehow doesn't count?

  3. Our recycle bins at my work get emptied into the trash (we don't have sorting facilities in town-- we have to self-sort and they toss things that aren't cleaned or that have comingled too much). I don't know if this is policy or just the underpaid cleaning staff making their lives easier.