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Trash Talk: Reducing, reusing and remembering

Some strategies for Toronto's strikebound residents

Sat Jun 27 2009

On the second day of summer and the first day of the garbage strike, I was tempted by an ice cream at a local store.

Did I want a cup or cone? Decidedly a cone. Here was packaging I could eat, and already, the garbage bins along the street were plastic-wrapped shut, a process since reversed by frustrated citizens or kids.

The cone made me think about minimizing garbage during the strike. My husband, Ken, suggested eating out. I tend to regress; embracing things we always did BPP (Before Plastic Packaging), when I was growing up.

This was nicely symbolized by the new clothesline Ken just put up. He was tired of being garrotted by our smaller, retractable line. In went a sturdy cedar post this week, and up went a line with pulleys that will soon sound like blue jays in the fall.

In those BPP days, we didn't generate much garbage, and we had a real backyard compost heap alongside the vegetable garden. Fortunately, we have composters now – two black distorted plastic ones, sometimes invaded by small, tunnelling creatures. They easily handle eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps during the summer and accommodate winter stockpiling.

So, we need a return to composting. But what if you don't have room? Try storing kitchen green bin refuse in the freezer, says one of several recommendations for a strike-bound city on the Toronto Environmental Alliance website (torontoenvironment.org). Or share a friendly neighbour's composter.

My friend Janice from around the corner had the best suggestion for eliminating meat residue (the smelliest food offender, banned from backyard compost): Buy boneless cuts.

Or go vegetarian.

If chicken with bones makes it into our house, I'll do the soup-stock thing, and plant the boiled-clean bones in our city garden afterwards. (Remember when stock didn't come in cartons?) And as for stale bread, we'll buy judiciously or make, as I did on the first day of the strike, an improvised bread pudding packed with bargain-priced blueberries.

"It does come back to some of the old ways, how our previous generation did it," muses Ward 13 councillor Bill Saundercook, once known in city circles as Mr. Blue Box. His third child (he has five, now grown up) was born Oct. 2, 1987, the day curbside blue box collection was launched in York.

In non-strike times, Saundercook and his household – seven adults at the moment – fit their trash into a medium-sized garbage bin for pickup every two weeks and "it's often not completely full." The contents are mainly plastic, like dry-cleaning bags and packaging.

"When you go and purchase things, be very conscious of the waste product you're purchasing with it. And bring your own bag," says Saundercook, suggesting a strategy for all times.

What other strike measures should we take?

"We have to be very careful with stinky meat trays," says Saundercook. Wash them clean, along with other blue box food containers, and make sure everything is flattened to make best use of space.

"People can store recyclables for quite some time," says Saundercook, a foe of bottled water.

Wash meat wrap and other potential odour sources destined for the trash, too. I'm even rinsing those wretched blotters from trays of meat; I buy with decreasing frequency.

If trash piles up, Saundercook suggests families carpool their garbage, taking turns going to a transfer station. An excellent strategy, particularly if disposable diapers are an issue and cloth isn't an option.

In our household, there's the dog. We'll bring home the loot bags from walks, but what to do with the poo? The toilet? For us, it's holes in the garden (we grow few edibles) for the retriever residue. I also found a website reference to vermicomposting dog waste (compostinstructions.com), but we'll consider that can of worms later.

For now, it's reduce and store, unless you have a friend with garbage collection. And, let's hope the strike-induced discipline we develop changes our wasteful habits over the long term.

As posted at: http://www.thestar.com/article/656163

Trash Talk- Reducing, reusing and remembering June 27 2009.pdf101.58 KB