The first thing people ask me when I tell them we’ve gone to a zero waste household is what does that mean. The immediate follow-up is, does that include recycling? Well we’d definitely have some serious trouble if it didn’t. So a zero waste household is a household with no garbage can. Thus no magic garbage faeries to come whisk away our “waste” once a week. No more out of sight out of mind with our twenty-first century disposable realities. And yes, this does mean getting super serious about recycling.
Zero waste is about embodying the whole triple R threat – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Granted our society is currently really big on the last one, the first two being a little under-supported in their invariably anti-capitalist practice; however, zero waste is kind of an all encompassing life style shift that has begun to alter how I relate to material objects. Things that used to get tossed in my garbage can now sit on my dry rack, packaging taken apart, wrappers and tubs cleaned and made in good enough shape for the mixed plastic bin at the recycling depot – a place where my initial zero waste endeavor started four weeks ago.
After reading the Ascent Magazine zero waste article, I was motivated and on a waste-free mission. With two bags of mixed paper, cans and glass, my first stop was the Gibson’s Recycling Center where I drilled them for 20 minutes about what they took or more precisely what they didn’t take.
“We don’t take old light bulbs,” the recycling depot lady told me after a long pause. “You can return those long life kind to the local building supply, but the old ones, we don’t take.”
Another virtue for the long life bulb I thought. While I didn’t have any burned out bulbs presently, I saw at once power smart and procrastination could be good bedfellows, making a mental note the more lights I turned off the further away this conundrum was.
Now I initially left all stoked that all I had to worry about were light bulbs. Worse come to worse I’d get creative, follow the old adage – when in doubt make art. But as the week progressed more and more things occurred to me that we didn’t talk about.
“What about used toothbrushes?” I asked the depot lady my next visit.
“Don’t think so,” she said, “I once saw a program where they made bracelets out of them though.” I know this track I thought. A couple of days earlier I had been in the health food store asking about alternatives disposable toothbrushes and the lady there told me, no such thing. Then she launched nostalgically into how her father made her a ring once from old toothbrushes.
“Boiled it in water so it would bend.” she said.
Not being a fan of plastic jewelry since Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ left the top 40, I mentioned that realistically there was only so much plastic jewelry I could make. It certainly couldn’t keep up with my dental habits.
So this remains for the dead end artifact box that has begun. It contains things we don’t know what to do with yet. Thus far the contents fit in a pocket. Happily silica gel was removed last week when Miss Bliss researched it and found out it was just sand and good for your garden. Thus a happy compost ending for one item, and an optimistic outlook for our little collection of dead end minutiae.
This last visit to the depot the lady there told me about about a reality show she saw where they got a group of design students to look at ungreen products and find green alternatives. My mind wheeled at the possibilities for the new designer alumni of Emily Carr, but first I told her I’ve got to find out where my old toothbrush can go?