Waste Not

How recycling works in Eau Claire, and why Sweden’s trash system is better

Waste Not

After nine weeks of frustration at the smallest of labels being thrown in the trash and discontent for having to carry my coffee thermos with me everywhere (as well as compost if I had to bring it home,) I took a week off of waste not.

The week off was beautiful, blissful. I imagined it was how people who vacation to other countries and make economies dependent on tourism must feel: thoughtless.

I guaranteed at the beginning of the semester that I would be trying to live zero-waste. In some ways, I’m fulfilling this. However, I’m still throwing away one or two smaller items in the trash each day (container labels primarily).

Part of this is my own fault. I’m living a hectic college life. Like most of you, time for me seems a distant reality. Cooking has never been something I’ve been drawn toward. Thus, when my precious free time does arrive, I never feel drawn to go to the kitchen and plan or go to the grocery store to buy bulk.

I become frustrated knowing that there are some people out there living zero waste saying that it’s something everyone should be doing. I’d say being mindful is the number one priority.

Thus, this week’s Waste Not is dedicated to the many of you who want to cut back on what you put in the trash but don’t know quite how it works.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be like Sweden and have the trash sent back when it isn’t sorted properly. I may be the friend who dramatically sucks in their breath when someone throws an item that belongs in the recycling into the garbage, so to avoid me catching your eye in public, follow these steps:

Basic recycling laws of the land:

— Aluminum cans, tin and steel cans can go in recycling;

— However, their boxes can’t (pop and beer boxes can’t be recycled in Eau Claire);

— Numbers 1-5 and 7 can go in the recycling bin. These include berry containers, milk containers, squeeze bottles, medicine containers, tupperware etc.;

— And cardboard and magazines can be funneled toward recycling as well.

If you are trying to recycle plastic bags, fear not. Eau Claire’s Target offers a plastic bags recycling bin near the checkout lanes (as well as electronics recycling). If trying to get rid of other older electronic implements, such as CD’s, Best Buy can recycle them.

Beyond these, I assure you, having a compost bin is what diverts the larger amount of waste I accumulate from going into the recycling bin. Besides the families of fruit flies it gathers, there is absolutely no downside.

I found my compost bin at Menards, and while it took me a while to put together, I’m sure most of you have a much higher manual assembly IQ and won’t suffer the huffing and puffing I did.

Use a water bottle and a reusable thermos. Try to use less and reduce. Also, please write a letter to your representative about this system for burning trash in Sweden, which turns the heat into energy. The system has become so efficient, Sweden imports trash from other countries.

Be more like Sweden, America. In the meantime, put what belongs in recycling in recycling and compost.