Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Winter Recycling Footprint

This past Sunday I watched the National Geographic special, "Human Footprint." Or rather, I LISTENED to it while reading and doing other things around the house.

The show selected certain items that most people use (cars, bread, milk, and many more) and figured out how much the average American uses in a lifetime. Not surprisingly, it's a lot. It's mindboggling. So Elizabeth Vargas and her team placed all these large quantities of items in a field and showed how much room this crap takes up. It really is incredible how much we consume. I tried to watch this program, but basically it was 2 hours of the camera panning sloooooooooowly over a lot of crap. 2 minutes slowly panning over the 5,504 newspapers each person consumes in a lifetime, the 80 gazillion loaves of bread, and so on. It was interesting to see all that stuff in one place at the same time, but after about 10 minutes, it was kind of boring to watch, so I did other stuff and listened for the brief snippets of information that came in between the slow panning.

I was reminded of this show yesterday, as I finally put my recycling out for the first time since...oh...DECEMBER! Why, you may ask? It's not necessarily because I'm lazy. You see, in Minneapolis, recycling must be separated into glass, plastic, tin, aluminum, and paper. I have a separate bag for the paper recycling in my house, but I just lump the other items together. I just don't want to devote half a room in my small house to multiple recycling receptacles.

So instead when the bag of recyclables gets full, out to the garage it goes until I have enough bags out there to make sorting worth it. But when it's cold (as it has been since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, or possibly just since December), I just leave the sorting in the garage for a warmer day. Well, we finally had some warmth so Tuesday night I sorted! A lot. Turns out, in 4 months my roommate and I generate a lot of recycling. The photo below shows how much we went through. Keep in mind little of it is paper because I have been setting that out at the curb all winter. It's mostly bottles, possibly due in part to my beer mission to drink 200 different kinds of beers in 2008.

I was concerned that Minneapolis crews would be mad I had set so much out, but to their credit, they picked everything up and left no nasty notes!

I've heard that in the 'burbs, all recycling is lumped into one receptacle. Minneapolis, don't let Coon Rapids show you up! Show us you're serious about wanting to make it easy for us to recycle. I'll always recycle, but I worry that not everyone is willing to take the time to sort.

So there you have it, there's a portion of my footprint for 4 months. Pretty scary! (slow pan over the image for full effect).


Anonymous said...

Lord son, I have a family of four and we subscribe to the daily paper. Your piddly little pile is roughly what ours looks like every two weeks. Our garage would be bursting at the seams if waited 4 months.

Nathan said...

(father...?) I'm glad you have so much to recycle. And as I said, this pile did not include paper recycling over that time span. Glad to hear I don't generate as much waste/recycling as a family of 4. Phew.

Rachel said...

Yeah, St. Louis Park is definitely showing you up on the recycling issue. Co-mingling is where it's at! And, btw, it didn't really look like you had that much recycling. You should see my recycling every week!