Trashy trash

I’ve finally come to terms with how an international change in recycling policy is affecting the way materials are being handled locally — or not being handled, which is closer to the truth.

You can read my posts about this HERE and HERE if you need a more thorough recap, but the Reader’s Digest condensed version is simply that all recycling in our county is going straight to the landfill because we don’t have a Plan B when it comes to transforming our recyclables into usable products. Our Plan A has always been to toss everything in one bin, ship that sucker to Portland and let their material recycling facilities sort it out for us, then send it on to China.

China is no longer accepting recyclables with more than .5 contamination rates, and our facilities can’t get down to that level (because people are idiots, basically, myself included). Moreover, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t quite figured out what to do about it all yet. Ergo, all recyclables in our county are trashed, although we’re supposed to keep recycling as usual for now.

(Partly because they don’t want us to get out of the habit, but mostly because if we start tossing things in the garbage, trash rates are going to go up and people are going to rebel.)

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve decided that, until “they” figure out what our next step is, I have to take the bull by the horns and do what I can to limit our family’s trash output. The good news is that we have lots of great habits in place because of my zero waste Simple Year. The bad news is that I have let some items back into our lives with the idea that they come in recyclable packages, so while not great, it’s not terrible, either.

Well, now it IS terrible. Hello, Johanna’s favorite yogurt!

During my weekly grocery trip on Saturday, I did my best to reduce the amount of trash filling my cart — that’s how I look at the food I purchase now, since most of its packaging IS trash. This means there’s a new hierarchy of purchases. I did my usual spin around the produce aisle, got my shampoo, conditioner and dish soap in bulk (not zero waste for the store, but trash-free for me in my own containers), as well as bulk items like dried cranberries and maple syrup (I know, STUPID LUCKY).

Because I can sort out cardboard and tin cans to take directly to our transfer station — those things will be recycled as long as they are clean and prepped properly, i.e. flattened and label free — I figure those are “bye” items on the ol’ grocery list. I didn’t have much of that this time, though, as fate would have it. What did make it into my cart that I hate, but can’t figure out a way around: I just tested positive for a wheat/gluten allergy (and corn, peanuts, cane and maple sugar, yeast, nightshades — damn the luck, tomatoes are my life! — and lactose, but not dairy, because my jerk of a stomach likes to be ironic). I purchased a package of spelt tortillas and a loaf of gluten-free bread (which is … well, gross, but not as gross as I expected).*

I have to live on something besides coffee and chocolate (apparently my gut is okay with those, I must be getting rewarded for good behavior), so these are now my own bye items (along with Eric’s cereal and bread, and Johanna’s potato chips).

I came to the conclusion long ago that zero waste isn’t possible, but minimal waste is, and now thanks to policies beyond my control, I have greater motivation to put what I know into practice. And I still think that individual responsibility is the way to go, even when policies get sorted out. That’s the goal, I suppose: To do what we can in the confines of our own situations.

*P.S., in case anyone is worried: These foods affect my stomach to varying degrees ranging from twingey to full-on death (or it just feels like I’m dying). This is in addition to my longstanding artificial preservatives/colors/flavors allergy. But I will not stop breathing. So that’s a plus.


10 thoughts on “Trashy trash

  1. Roberta says:

    Ooooh! Lactose but not dairy still leaves (some) cheeses on the plate! And you can still eat alliums — onion and garlic. No onion and garlic is sad. But no tomatoes or gluten is also sad.

    The 5 Minute a Day Bread cookbook (the second one) has a recipe for gluten free 5 minute bread. I haven’t tried it myself, but the regular 5 minute bread is as-advertised! Tasty and bread-like in 5 minutes. I also like the Oh She Glows cookbook, but she does use a lot of nightshades. Sweet potatoes are tasty, and not nightshades.

    Have you been tested for Lyme? I have a friend whose dietary restrictions looked a lot like yours, and it turned out to be Lyme. After a long course of treatment, she’s able to eat a lot of things that were once forbidden.

    I recently lost the ability to eat eggs. I have 19 chickens! I’m not as restricted as you, but it’s still a bummer.

    And thanks for the update on recycling. I will see about dropping off mine at the recycling place on the way to the kids’ school.


    • Trisha Walker says:

      Not Lyme — just genetics. (My sister-in-law has Lyme, and it SUCKS. Your poor friend.) My dad and brother have this too. It gets worse as you get older, apparently. Anyway, appreciate all the ideas and tips. I’m still sorting out what’s what — my gluten-free bread seems to be irritating my gut, probably because it also contains sugar and yeast — and I’m trying to look at this as a fun science experiment: What happens if I eat this?

      Huh, also kind of like playing the lottery. Because most likely I’m gonna lose. Eh, I’m used to it.

      Your county might be just fine with its recycling — but it’s nice to have options. Short term this will be terrible, but I am curious to see what the future holds. I imagine there will be new industries created (like solar vs. coal).


      • Roberta says:

        I feel like someone will pick up the opportunity for local recycling, and we will be better off for it! It’s just hard right now, thinking of all the glass and metal that is being lost. But I feel we can’t complain (especially down here, in Republican Southern California) because people who have finally started “recycling” will stop if they here the materials are being trashed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris N says:

    I try and separate stuff out but in ourcounty they have this thing called ONe Bin. So everything goes in and is later sorted. I’m not sure I quite believe what it is they’re doing but I hope its recycling. We take glass and other stuff ourselves to the recycle center.
    That’s too bad about your dietary restrictions. I’m lucky I can eat whatever and I do!!


    • Trisha Walker says:

      That’s us! In one bin, sorted elsewhere, and you just have to hope that it IS being recycled (well, in the past … it’s definitely not now). The problem with the co-mingled recycling is that it’s easily contaminated, and it’s also easy to put in items that you think SHOULD be recycled but aren’t (I’m guilty of doing that in the past. Bad Trisha!). Sorting glass etc. and taking that to the recycling center should have better results.

      I often wonder what it would be like to be able to eat whatever I wanted. I actually can’t imagine it!


  3. Diane says:

    I am celiac so I empathize with you on the wheat/gluten front. Before diagnosis I used to make all my own bread but have never had great success with making gf bread so don’t bother. Other baked goods I can handle but I seldom bake anyway because I don’t like anything sweet. Actually, I prefer meat, fish, eggs, veggies, etc. to anything processed.

    That must be horribly frustrating to think that so many recyclables are going to landfill. So far we don’t have that problem but I wonder if it’s a harbinger of things to come *shudder*. I certainly hope not.


    • Trisha Walker says:

      Oh, celiac — that’s hard. I’m not a great baker unless it’s dessert 😉 so I’m probably not up to gluten free bread anyway.

      Canada may have a better recycling system in place than the States … (you seem to have a lot of awesome stuff that we don’t. Like a sane leader). I hope it’s not a harbinger either!


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