Letter to the editor: Reducing trash is a crucial task

The July/August issue of the Sierra Club’s “Sierra Magazine” has a review of the trash/recycling situation. It used to be that U.S. companies could take reusables from our trash and even pay money for that stuff. We had to clean and presort it by plastic type and metal type, but then automatic trash sorting was invented. However, this created sloppiness with unwashed materials contaminating clean things like paper and make them useless. Our trash was sent to countries where cheap labor would sort it and the rest was dumped near streams that washed it into the ocean. Now the ocean has a big garbage gyre where a state sized collection of our trash turns like a slow record in mid ocean.
Now some or most of those garbage countries don’t want our trash any more. One and maybe more big ocean-going ships are filled with our trash and no countries will let them land, since the original contract ran out to handle this trash.
One city tried to divert disaster by turning land near the Hudson River into a landfill until they calculated that it would take just a few years till they could go mountain climbing on their new landfill. Their motto of “garbage capital of the Hudson Valley”, wasn’t well liked.
We can start to avoid this problem by being sure we and neighbors only put real recyclables in the recyclable collectors. That means that they are CLEAN. Wash the cans and stuff first. Keep paper separate, especially white business type paper. Most collectors now use the sorting methods that allow mixing it all together and let them sort it, but that is not working and lots of your recyclables get dumped in a landfills or oceans. If we get clean stuff to the collectors, when they can no longer send bad stuff to anyone (already happening) they will be happy to get clean saleable stuff.
Other solutions are to compost food wastes, and take your own shopping bags to the store and don’t buy over-packaged items and let manufacturers know too much packaging reduces sales. Think of many ways to reduce the trash stream. Lets hear your ideas to reduce the waste stream so you don’t have to set out cans full of waste every week.
And maybe suggestions for what to do when all landfills are mountains.
Peter Grant

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