When I started my zero-waste challenge a year and a half ago, the first pedal to the recycling depot felt like judgement day. It would either confirm or eradicate my waste free ambitions. I’d packed my panniers with cardboard, glass, and plastic, devoid hopefully of any garbage, and I cycled to the depot with both fear and hope in my heart that Barb, the depot manager, would be there. I wanted to see if she would catch me with some unrecyclable and with one brief head shake turn this whole challenge to fantasy and affirm waste a fact of life.
On a prior visit, Barb had listed to me the things she would and would not take: plastic bags yes, light bulbs no, tin foil if cleaned, toothbrushes forget it. This time when I pulled up in-front of the bins, she was too busy on the other side sorting metals to notice what I was tossing in. With my panniers almost empty and feeling like I couldn’t or shouldn’t possibly be getting away with this, I yelled across at her “Hey Barb…, ah what about this,”dangling a washed out cat food bag in the air. “Yup that’s for the plastic bag bin. ” she said “Ok, this” I asked waving a crinkled foil wrapper, “Plastic again” she said. “Ok, this” I shot back. There ‘s a stack of egg cartons by the glass” I’d emptied my bags and I was elated. But I had to remind myself that I hadn’t shown up with old light bulbs or toothbrushes either. Things she claimed were none of her business. Something though had shifted in Barb’s mind since our last conversation, something that made Barb want my waste-free attempts to succeed. Maybe it had registered that my success would really be hers too. Whatever it was, before I left she said. “Romina I was thinking, if you cut the heads off your toothbrushes maybe we can take those too.” And so this is how the world has evolved since, ready to meet me half way. Reusable hemp tea bags at the corner store, fully recyclable razors at the co-op, and eco-paint supplies at home depot. My collection of moop “material out of place” hasn’t grown much past a few toothbrush heads. Whether it’s via progress or simplification I’m not sure but on the post-waste frontier the garbage has literally disappeared.