What Can People Do With Their Garbage?

ALBANY: Debbie Jackson, who works in solid waste reduction and recycling for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, gave real, concrete, specific suggestions for how each of us can reduce the amount of waste we produce at the June Save the Pine Bush Vegan/Vegetarian Lasagna Dinner at the First Presbyterian Church in Albany.

Open dumps and burning was the method widely used to dispose of garbage up until the 1980’s until the Mobro brought attention to the solid waste issue. The Mobro 4000, or the garbage barge, was made famous in 1987 for hauling the same load of trash along the east coast of North America from New York to Belize before finally being able to dispose of the garbage by incinerating it in Brooklyn. Garbage in New York State is disposed of in waste-to-energy plants, and landfills, and garbage is exported to Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Illinois.

Ms. Jackson discussed different methods that individuals can use to reduce, reuse and recycle solid waste.

At the grocery store, bring canvass bags for purchases, and if you do get plastic grocery bags, be sure to reuse them. Some grocery chains, such as Hannaford, recycles plastic and paper bags. If your store does not recycle bags, fill in a comment card and ask for recycling.

Instead of paper towels use sponges or rags, rather than disposable paper. Sterilize by washing in the dishwasher or use vinegar. Also, paper napkins and towels can be composted.

Buy in bulk to reduce packaging and buy locally. Print on both sides of the paper.

At work, bring your own lunch and put that sandwich in a reusable container. Not only do you save on plastic bags or wrap, the sandwich won’t get smushed. Make sure your bring your own utensils and dishes to work so that you do not need to use throw-away items.

Styrofoam is made from a non-renewable resource and can’t be recycled. The best way to deal with styrofoam is write to the company using it and tell them you will not buy their products that contain styrofoam.

Recycling turns one thing into something new. Paper is a wonderful thing to recycle. For example, Marcal toilet paper is made from Niskayuna junk mail. In reference to the recycled toilet paper, Ms. Jackson emphasized “No point in flushing a tree down the toilet.”

People should push to recycle construction debris. The Salvation Army recycles clothing that cannot be sold. To promote recycling, buy recycled products.

Plastic containers have numbers assigned The most common plastics are #1 and #2. #3 is vinyl and is no longer recycled. Ms. Jackson passed around a polo shirt made from recycled soda bottles. It looked like a regular cotton shirt. Laws do not allow recycled plastic to be in contact with food. Soda bottles are recycled into polar fleeces.

Metals can be recycled. For example the energy it takes to make one aluminum soda can is the equivalent of running a TV for three hours.

Batteries can be recycled. Ink-jet cartridges can be recycled, some schools will take them. Cell phones can be recycled by bringing them back to where they were purchased.

And that brings us to the “worm bin” that Ms. Jackson brought with her. 40% of stuff thrown away is organic garbage, and can be composted. Ms. Jackson keeps this worm bin in her house – right now, on top of the good soil, one can see the remains of last nights Chinese food dinner. As Ms. Jackson paws through the bin she speaks about how these red wiggly worms turn last night’s rice into rich compost.