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My Bag, BFF for Another Week...

Tess' Trash Talk: Blog entry #6

My Best Friend the Bag -- with me until the end of the Trash Challenge...

I'm about to hit one week of carrying my trash around... and there's some disagreement about how the next part works. I thought I would be tossing the first week, starting anew to see how much less I can generate in week two. But since my Best Friend The Bag is so small, there's a suggestion that I just keep filling the original and see how much waste I have after two weeks. So -- lucky me!!! -- that's what we're going to do.

For the most part, I've been able to recycle or compost most of my waste this week. We should have had a scale today, but I don't think there's one in the office. I can definitely say that I did not generate six pounds per day -- which is the national average. That would be 35 pounds or so to carry around and I'd be developing some nice guns.

Maybe that's the solution to my exercise aversion: Carry my trash around for the rest of my life. Hmm.

By the way, I'm thinking about buying a second composting bin. The city of Pasadena is selling them at our local farmer's market this weekend. Just have to figure out where I could put it in our backyard. And I'm definitely thinking that somebody should nominate me for this.

But here's a question that's come up -- am I recycling things that aren't really recyclable? I've been putting just about everything that's plastic, styrofoam, glass, aluminum or paper into my recycle bin. I don't look at numbers on the bottom of milk containers. I don't look at anything except what it's made of. So I went to the city Web site -- and lo and behold, they have rules. Uh oh. Here's the rundown:

THE FOLLOWING RECYCLABLE ITEMS ARE ACCEPTABLE:
º Aerosol cans (empty)
º Beverage and food containers (rinsed)
º Cardboard (flattened)
º Junk mail, mixed paper, catalogs, magazines, phone books
º Newspapers
º Plastics types 1 through 7

So I guess I'd better start looking for the numbers on my plastics. But what about beverage and food containers? They're all OK? Really? I'll see if I can reach someone at the city to get even more details next week.

Meantime, I wanted to respond to some of your comments from the past week. They're in italics -- my responses are not.

Sue: What are you doing about used toilet paper? Or are you switching to cloth for your two weeks?

Doesn't count! I'm only carrying trash with me. Not stuff that usually gets flushed into the sewer system. I have limits!

Brent Tannehill: It's really easy to deal with garbage if you live in the country. Everyone should own at least two chickens (you don't need a rooster). They'll eat all the wasted food that your kids leave behind. They'll eat the meat off of the bones that you didn't.

Ok. That's it. Farewell, Hollywood. Hello, Nebraska!

Greg: Hey, Tess! Great story. My office works the same in that we can only recycle office paper. Nothing else. So, I keep a box under my desk and put any other recyclable items in it and take it home once a week and make sure it gets in my recycling bin at home. Some of my coworkers think I'm weird, but others have started doing the same thing (or they ask if they can put it in my box!)

My coworkers think I'm weird already (uh... I'm carrying around my trash), so I guess this wouldn't be a huge stretch. Maybe I'll try it next week. But unless my colleagues agree to carry around their own garbage (which they won't -- weenies...), they don't get to add to my recycling box.

Kathy: DON'T USE PAPER TOWELS. OR NAPKINS. Use cloth rags, dish cloths, cloth napkins.

Certainly seems like a rational suggestion. I could also carry a handkerchief with me instead of using Kleenex -- though I now know those are compostable. But this brings up another issue: If I start using more cloth, I'm going to have more laundry. So I'll use more water. Which is the last thing anyone should be doing in parched Los Angeles. What's the trade-off worth?

Anonymous: I was stuck by your first paragraph in today's post. I am curious if you completely forget about the Trash Challenge while walking the grocery aisles? When I walk the grocery aisles I am always thinking of the life of the product -- where it will end up?

Dear Anonymous: You're a better (wo?)man than I.

And finally, some reality from an urban-dweller like me. Brent Agnew says he's a big fan of recycling, cooking at home, etc. But...

Brent Agnew: 1. A less convenient, more garbage-free lifestyle doesn't lend itself well to those with ambition who need the extra time to hon their career or business.
2. A more garbage-conscious society will certainly tank my retirement account which depends on the population consuming more and more.
3. Less garbage discourages the development of new technology or industries for dealing with the problem which also effects my retirement account.

Our assignment for the weekend? Come up with some answers. Go!

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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