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Today is garbage day. I don my slip-on shoes, and repeat the weekly tradition: break down the cardboard and sort the recycling, attach the municipal numbered tag to the garbage bag, and carry the whole affair to the curb, hoping none of the neighbours notice me in my pajamas.
But today is different. The usual one or two bags have become three or four, and the pattern of blue boxes is heaping with packaging from offshore toys. Today is the first garbage day after Christmas, and my street is a textbook example of why “Reduce” is the first of the 3-R’s.
I was recently pitched an idea by a brilliant and enthusiastic man in a bar: we need to invest in Post-Consumer Gassification… we need to burn our garbage, and create electricity. This isn’t a new idea – in the early 70’s there were incinerator generators going up in major cities all over, and this practice has evolved into a very efficient and clean-burning alternative to dumping our garbage into a hole we dug. In fact, I think the guy even said the words “carbon neutral”. In some of the places where I hang out – them’s fightin words!
The part of the pitch that got me thinking, and made me notice the great wall of garbage on my street this morning, was the way the money would flow. Basically, the tables would be turned: instead of being taxed on garbage removal (my garbage tags are $2.10), you would be paid for the “fuel” you send to the generator. More garbage, more money. Hmmmm.
Is this really the direction we want to head? This week in the newspaper, it came out that in York Region (Toronto area) they were spending $80,000 a month more than they needed to on a “green” plan to turn garbage into fuel, while truckloads of the garbage were simply being dumped in landfill. I also read that if England doesn’t smarten up, they could be out of landfill space in nine years. My friend at the bar would see that as a lot of fuel – and he’d be right. I see it as a lot of room for improvement.
So I am left with my thoughts as I take my garbage to the curb. This bag will not be turned into low-carbon-gassification-generated-electricity. It’s going to be buried in a landfill on Romeo Street, and I don’t feel great about that. I also feel that it’s wrong to provide incentives to produce more garbage – but I’m not about to get into a bar-fight over it. I’m just hopeful that if we put some thought into our purchases; buy reusable instead of disposable, “vote” with our dollars on items which have less packaging, and forget about the dollar-store (the stuff just breaks anyway) – maybe we’ll be able give the garbage man a break. I bet he hates Christmas.