Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thinking outside the bag

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

As of Nov. 1 all bags must be clear!

Saturday this sign was posted at our garbage drop-off. Our bags are of course black. Black-Seventh-Generation-80%-recycled-plastic bags which I purposely sought out two years ago in an effort to reduce our plastic consumption. So I asked about the sign. I was told the switch to clear-plastic bags was being directed by the DNR because our municipality is throwing away too many recyclables. Okay... I am not sure how this is going to help, but if it gets more people to recycle then I guess it it a good thing. EXCEPT that I have oodles and oodles of these black-plastic bags. OODLES!!

Back in 2008 I signed up for Amazon's Subscribe & Save program and started having these and other staples delivered by the case directly to my door. About the same time other things began to change with our way of life. I started a compost pile, set up a worm bin, started buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, looking for products with less and/or non-plastic packaging, consumed less - all leading to less trash. A lot less trash! We went from a bag a day to less than a bag a week! All the while still receiving case shipments of garbage bags. Before I knew it I had four cases of these garbage bags and had not even used the first case!

Our first shipment came in October of 2008, just shy of two years ago. In that two years we have used 9 boxes out of the first case delivered. Nine! Actually 8, because I just opened our current box so it is still nearly full. Eight! Eight boxes, multiplied by 20 bags per box equals 160 bags, divided by 104 weeks (2 years) equals an average use of 1.5 bags per week. From one per day to 1.5 per week. I think that is awesome! But, it leaves me with a huge dilemma. I still have 40 boxes to use. 40 boxes, multiplied by 20 bags per box equals 800 bags, divided by 1.5 bags per week, divided by 52 weeks (1 year) equals enough bags left to last 10.25 years! And that is at our current rate of consumption. Our last child leaves for college in four years. No children, less food, less consumption, equals even less trash. OY!

When I expressed my disdain to the garbage attendant she sympathized, but offered no solution. Her only advice was to use as many bags as I can between now and November 1. 800 bags! No problem. I cannot even donate them since everyone now has to use clear bags. Am I just going to end up contributing massive amounts of plastic to the waste stream? The very thing I was trying to avoid when purchasing these? Let's not even get into the $160 I have paid for them. Ugh. Plus all the money that will have to be spent on new clear bags.

I feel like I'm back in grade school and have to miss recess, because one jerky kid didn't listen and now the whole class is being punished. Thanks. Certainly I am the last person who would throw away something that can be recycled. I keep stuff that should be recycled, but is not because they do not accept it! You should see all the yogurt containers in my basement!

Trying to rack my brain for a way around this clear bag mandate (i.e. throwing a major hissy fit on my husband) I said I would be willing to let them inspect my bag. You know keep it open so they could look inside before throwing it in the dumpster? And in true tantrum style refused to buy new bags. I will just take our whole trash can over and dump it in. Then my husband offered this: Why not still line the trash can with our black bags and do just that? Dump the contents in and then throw the black bag away with it. Genius!

I see people over there all the time throwing loose trash in. It is usually larger items, but as far as I know there is no mandate against it. All the trash is compacted and hauled to Xcel energy to be incinerated. It will burn the same inside or out of the bag. So that is my new plan. To not waste these bags and not buy new plastic and when mine run out in ten years or so never buy garbage bags again.


Anonymous said...

You go girl! Don't let them beat you! Or your mountains of black bags.

dbilberry said...

Fuse them together to make reusuable totes and then sell them on ebay. Just a thought.

Eco Yogini said...

you know what- in Nova Scotia outside of the city of Halifax all bags must be clear. Have been for years now.
My parents originally balked at this, and then relented. What was the result?
The municipalities gave out some fines cuz you can't hide recyclables in clear plastic bags. Fines+rejection sticker on your garbage means you have to sort through your own waste.
which has resulted in better compliance. I think clear plastic bags are fantastic.

At the same time- why couldn't you post an ad online for another person in another community to buy or donate your bags too?
Also, I'd check into a larger centre. In Halifax we can use black bags, but just one hour away those communities can't.

good luck!

Kathryn Grace said...

So funny--your writing, not your dilemma. Like how you found a workable resolution. Isn't it interesting how difficult it is to work around the people who don't give a flying fig? Times will change. We will continue to educate them, gently, gently. Thank you for writing this.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

My sister went on an anti plastic kick last year and decided to start putting her trash in those paper yard waste bags rather than plastic trash bags, but the trashmen wouldn't take them. Where she lives (and here too), trash has to be in a plastic bag. Hopefully they don't make that rule where you are!

Daisy said...

Use them for oven/grill cleaning. I've heard that spraying the grill grates with oven cleaner and then putting the grates in a black bag in the sun will clean them beautifully. But that would only use one or two bags - not 800.

PureMothers said...

what about posting on freecycle for someone in another municipality (nearby) who doesn't need clear bags?

DramaMama said...

I agree w/posting them on craigslist, ebay or freecycle. Good luck!

Condo Blues said...

I didn't know that they make clear trash bags. I'm in the same low trash boat as you and now use plastic grocery bags I collect from others for my household trash. My city makes us bag it.

Can you sell the unopened boxes on ebay?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin