Trash and the Single Female

April 16, 2012|Posted in: family, green, My little city farm, plastic, recycling, sustainable living, The Red House

I’m not a single female. Happily married, see? (waggles ring finger.) But I’m the only female in this house. So why am I head-down in the trash can? How did taking out the garbage become a gendered job? Should I feel like I’m doing the gentlemen (Mr Husband and The Boy) a big fat favor when I’m taking out the trash? Should I get annoyed when it’s still sitting here in the kitchen? Who died and made me the Boss of Everything?

Uh. No one. Of course, I wouldn’t be alone in thinking that taking out the trash is the man’s job. Check out these marriage experts, and this one, and even these knuckleheads who have strong opinions about the Taking Out of the Trash. Looks like everyone has some thoughts on the matter.

Sorting trash. Yeah, that’s me.

 Amusing, but that’s not really our point today. I take out the trash as much as anyone else. It all depends who’s home when it’s full. But more important — it’s not just trash. We have a system of what goes where. Actual real garbage (which includes nasty bathroom stuff, old Bandaids and soiled plastics) is not much in existence at this house (apartment). We have a 1-gallon can in the kitchen that is lined with a small plastic grocery bag and is rarely even filled. One of us takes it down every week or so to the gray can. The gray can is usually pretty empty. We could get away with once-a-month service. Not so for the green and blue cans.

Everything else gets sorted and either composted or recycled. Broken glass? Recycled.
Electronics? Recycled.
Old clothes? Used for rags, then recycled.
Empty paint can? Recycled.
Paint can with some paint left over? Taken to Alameda County Industries for household hazardous waste disposal. (Free!)
Plastic bags? Collected and returned to grocery stores.

Look! Bottle caps!
Which one of you wise guys…?

Sometimes people (I won’t name names) put the wrong thing in the trash. Bottle caps, for example, are recyclable. Don’t throw them in the garbage. How long do you think it takes a metal can or bottle cap to decompose in “garbage,” aka landfill? About 50 years. More or less.

Probably more.

It’s easy to compost/green waste your leftovers and pizza boxes. Seems like everyone gets a green can at the curb these days, from whatever trash management company your city or area uses. We had two magnificent compost bins working at our last house, our Little City Farm, plus chickens, but I don’t find it too odious (odorous?) to take a load down to the green bin every day, now that we are apartment-dwellers. I have to leave the house anyway, right?


While taking out the trash may or may not be your purview at your house, I have always found it a simple starter-chore for kids. It’s a good idea to teach them young about recycling and what can go back into the earth (the circle of life, right?), and help carry it out to the curb. It’s not as if the need to recycle and reduce waste will go away soon. Good habits start early.
Better yet, though, is reducing, or pre-cycling, what comes into the house. Potato chip bags, with few exceptions, are not recyclable. Sun Chips (original flavor) has a biodegradable bag, and so does Boulder Canyon. If you can find these brands, it’s no problem to green-waste the bag afterward. If you’re buying Mylar bags or loud, crinkly plastic bag chips (Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Doritos, et al), you’re in trouble. Not likely that your local center will recycle those, and they end up in landfill. And how many bags a year are we talking? The Potato Growers Association says we eat three billion bags of chips (of all flavors) per year. Three billion? That’s a lot of landfill. I’m just saying. Can’t control what everyone else does, but we can control what we buy and how we affect the landscape around us. Think about that next time you reach for a plastic bag of chips. And even though The Boy loves them, I avoid buying them, knowing I’ll still see a few bags in the garbage anyway (= what I can’t control).
I’m working on this with other products. I go to the meat counter and ask for paper-only wrapping instead of getting plastic-wrapped bacon, lunch meats or fish. Better quality and fewer preservatives means it eat sooner, too. It won’t last a month in the fridge the way nationally branded products encased in plastic might. Which leads to less food waste, which leads to less methane in the atmosphere. Slower warming of the globe and all that.
You get the picture. Think about what’s coming in through the front door, and you’ll be able to manage how it goes out the trash can even more. Worry less about who’s taking out the trash and more about what you’re putting into it. A full recycling bin bespeaks a generous heart. Or something like that.
All smiles!

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.

1 Comment

  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jon Spangler
    April 17, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    Great post, Julia. I love it when you talk trash to me.. đŸ™‚

    I’m about to ride my bike to the Tuesday Farmer’s Market for our weekly food buy.
    I always return the plastic strawberry containers and reuse the half-flat strawberry box as well as the plastic mesh bag in which I buy 10# of oranges at a time. ($5/10# is a great deal on such tasty oranges.)

    Please keep trash-talking–we need it on garbage like gender-role stereotyping, too…

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