If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Monday, July 9, 2007

Rubbish, just plain rubbish!

As I devote a small part of each day to understanding my own waste problem I find I am actually learning a great deal. If you have been following "No Impact Man's" blog-- which I highly recommend you do-- you are aware of his rants, and a few of my own too in the comments, about e-waste. Yesterday I put a few videos on my blog about e-waste- they are all very short- and collectively they give a good concise picture of the problems e-waste is causing our planet. It is very serious problem. e-waste is a particularly noxious form of garbage since it contains many dangerous pollutants. Many of the pollutants are in a form that is difficult to extract and so they end up buried and pollute the ground and waters.

However I don't really want to continue with e-waste today. I am sure I will come back and revisit it soon since I have a whole drawer full of e-waste I don't know what to do with yet. I'm working on it just like I am working on disposal of my garage full of chemicals I need to get rid of too. That's a topic for another day.

Today I want to take about vegetable waste. Apple cores, potato peels, unusable lettuce leaves, tea bags. Stuff like that. Believe it or not vegetable waste accounts for 29% of the stuff that heads off to the landfills. An additional 46% that gets hauled away for burial is actually materials that can be recycled but just got tossed in the trash can. Only 25% of the stuff that goes to the landfills actually needs to go there. We, as a nation have along way to go. (Source: Office of Sustainable Development, City of Portland)

Vegetable waste is a particular bugaboo because it creates methane gas and methane, a greenhouse gas, is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Hot stuff...yikes!

Landfills, it turns out, are the largest source of methane in the United States but properly composted vegetable matter does not emit methane. Instead, it becomes a useful product for growing more food or even flowers. (Source: Office of Sustainable Development, City of Portland)

e-Waste may be a deadly problem with no easy solution but the vegetable waste problem is remedied by two very simple solutions. Both cost surprisingly little and can actually be personally fulfilling.


The first solution is a compost bin. In my area these compost bins are sold by Metro for just $35.00. The first year they were offered they were only available for one day and there was a line that stretched for about an hour. To use them you open the lid, throw in the stuff and gave it a stir from time to time. Eventually it all turns into nutrient rich compost and you just shovel it out of the bottom.

If you wan to begin composting here is a link for easy instructions on how to do it.

Composting Instructions

A compost bin can also be built for very little as well from wire mesh, old fencing, wooden pallets, cement blocks. Just about anything.


The second easy solution is to use a worm bin. For those that are handy, there is a link below showing plans for building your own worm bin. Some gardening stores sell these already made as well. Just look for a store that sells worms.

Here's the link courtesy of Spokane Regional Solid Waste System:

Worm Composting Bin

These work great outside but if you live in an apartment, as I do, here is a web source for purchasing indoor worm bins:

Indoor Worm Bins

I recently found a neighbor that has three compost bins and am now delivering my own vegetable waste to her weekly. My kitchen trash can is no longer seeing a lot of business. Previously I was dumping it about once a week, now I can probably go about once a month or more. I plan on weighing it each month (hope I remember) to act as an incentive to continue toward my goal of zero waste. I'll post my results here (if I remember).

The place I live in is being converted to condos and our time here is very short. In other words, I have to buy it or move. It's not a bad apartment but condo? No, it is not a great condo. Anyway, once I get moved I am definitely starting a worm bin to compost my own stuff, (sorry Sally, I know you love my garbage). I'll post the results here once I get it going. Worms actually sound like fun and i understand you can even make pet food out of them. Oooo!

If you want to find someone to take your compost like I did just post a note on Craigslist or join a Yahoo or Google group for gardeners and see if you can find a taker. It only took me one day to find someone to take my garbage for compost. It was a simple solution to a very big problem and it cost me absolutely nothing.

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