Saturday, August 14, 2010

Euro Trash

Several years ago, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest got out of the trash hauling business.  With limited staff and resources, hauling visitors' trash to the dump was consuming an unreasonable amount of time and fuel several times a week.  Communities around the country struggle with the issue of waste management and local newspapers report nearby counties struggling with diminishing landfill space.  Europe, with its longer history of habitation and limited land space has had to scrutinize its waste stream.

In Ober-Ramstadt, Germany, the trash is collected once a month.  In the image above, the blue can is for recycling paper and the gray can is for trash.  Glass must be taken one of the collection sites around town.  All plastics (not just #1 and #2) are collected in designated plastic bags and collected at the curb.  As only one couple lives at the house where the image was taken, the bottom half of the gray container is blocked off with a board.  Therefore, a month's worth of trash for two individuals must not exceed the capacity of the gray container's upper half!  Obviously, recycling and composting are absolutely necessary and excess packaging can be costly to consumers.

Not only is getting rid of the non-recyclable, non-compostable trash expensive, water is expensive.  One can fertilize the garden of flowers or vegetables with compost from the kitchen, but plants need water too.  Rain barrels capture and store water running off of the roof via the gutters.  Whenever the garden needs a drink, one can simply dip into the barrel and extract some stored rain.  Inside water-efficient appliances, low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads help keep down the water bill.

Recycling and composting will not eliminate our waste stream or eliminate the need for landfills.  However, both will reduce the amount of the waste stream heading to the landfill and thereby prolong the lives of existing landfills.  The next landfill will be more expensive to operate and will inevitably be in an unhappy someone's backyard.  As the dumpsters in London show, being a TREEHUGGER should not be a derogatory term as it actually makes financial sense for the entire community.

While you're thinking about how you can keep your waste out of the landfill, ponder over what "nasties" the Brits are keeping out of their carbonated beverages.

Images by Mark Musselman

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