Saturday, January 17, 2009

I can't help that I am a "trashy" girl

We have a mandatory recycling law here in Kansas City, so needless to say I try to do my best. I guess I should clarify. The policy is that we are allowed two less-than-40-pounds trash bags a week. If you go over the limit, you pay a $1 for each extra bag or they leave it on the street. They don't care if there is one person in the home, or 12. We are expected to recycle all #1-2 plastics, cans, aluminum cans, newpapers, paper (not shredded or they won't take it) get the point.

The theory is that if you recycle EVERYTHING you have been told to, you wouldn't make more than two bags of trash. Sometimes it works. However, the local marching bands have figured out that they should sell these gigantic yellow bags for a ton of money for fundraiers, so that people like us, even trying to recycle, have a safety net when we teeter on our more-than-two-bags-line. I think the marching bands have a secret deal with the city Public Works Dept. Every week it is like a meladrauma unfolding of "how much trash do the Andersons have...?" It is like the unearthing of Capone's tomb and I expect Geraldo Rivera to jump out of the trash can at any moment. When Snarky Belle moved away, she gave us some of her $1 trash stickers and I almost cried. It was the best gift ever! :) I am not kidding.

One time, Tom threw away three empty pizza boxes in the recyles. They were cardboard, and they were clean as a whistle. No grease, left over cheese bits or jalepenos. The recycle men refused them. He tried again next week. The recycle men refused them again. So the THIRD week (are you reading this really--three weeks to throw away clean cardboard boxes!) he showed them. He torn them up into small bits of cardboard (and frankly, I didn't help him...I was afraid the trash police would come and get me)and hid them at the bottom of the bin. He had to be careful though because too small, and they wouldn't take them. I know others who bury stuff at the bottom of their recycle bins but that is a secret that stays with me. :)

So, when Sheri came to visit a couple years ago, I was in the middle of my daily "trash dance" with the recycles. It is a pretty sad commentary when a kid doesn't know what to throw away and what they shouldn't . At least they get the trash to the "staging area." Sheri watched my scrutiny and tortured decision-making on the current trash items, and said something to the effect...."Val, what has your life become that your main work is sorting trash?" That is when I knew I had a problem.

I am like that mother on TV who obsesses over some roll over cell minutes and freaks out when the kids throw them away. When I was in China I picked up so much trash I should have billed the government. I guess I learned it from my father and the Soldotna Jr. High school. They used to bus the ENTIRE student body out to different parts of the roads around town to pick up trash (think about the liability attached to that idea). If we did a good job, we got an ice cream sandwich when we got back to school. I guess that is why I do it now....I am waiting for my ice cream sandwiches....and man, do I have pile of them coming to me.

This picture of this bag is my "Mr. Holland's Opus." My best trash work and I wanted to share it with you. I love this picture. The symmetry, the shine of the black is even better than the four copies of the family photo my mother has (which is a great story to be shared soon!).
This summer, at the leadership academy I direct, we take about 130 people (plus the three rented bus drivers) to a low-risk ropes course for the day. We feed them a box lunch during the event. That could generate a lot of trash. We are at an ENVIRONMENTAL education site, so we have always tried to recycle the plastic because that is what they do there. However, this summer it was a lucky find that they also recyle cardbord....(insert "box" lunch here).
I was hooked.
I appointed myself the "trash lady" and I was off and running. This bag is NOT the recycled stuff...that stuff made it to cardboard box storage. This bag is the total trash made by all 133 people. That was it. Because we could recycle most everything else we used, lunch for 133 only created this one lonely bag of trash. :)
It is true, some kids got hurt who tried throw their two-bites-out-of-the-apple away in my plastic bottle box, but they eventually learned. :) Speaking of wasted fruit, I was appalled how much food was wasted that day....but that is a soapbox for another day! :) Gratitude yesterday includes a chinese presentation that my boy was thrilled about.