Columnists

Trash Talk

When I was a kid, after dinner we cleared the table and scraped whatever was left on our plates into a kitchen garbage bag. That bag was then dumped in one of two huge metal drums on the side of our house that were below ground. Not buried treasure: buried trash. On Mondays some guy yanked the drums out of the ground and hauled them to the street where he threw the contents in the back of a garbage truck. That’s when every dog in the neighborhood started barking.

I wish it were still that simple. Waste has become so complicated now I’m afraid to make a removal decision for fear my wife will chastise me. She has become very environmentally conscious and watches my every discardance (OK, I am sure that’s not a word, but I really needed it here.)

For example, let’s say I have a used Styrofoam cup.  Should I throw it in the garbage can under the sink? Heaven forbid! Can it be recycled? There are guidelines on recycling bins and lists of accepted contents online.  Every item requires careful scrutiny. Ink cartridges? Cooking grease? Aerosol cans? Glass thermometers containing mercury? There is no easy way to remember everything. There is even a picture on our bin’s lid of soda bottles that are okay to recycle: one bottle is clear, one is brown and one is green. What about yellow? What do I do with my Dew?

Recycling bins have warnings to not dump “unknown materials.” But that’s why I want to get rid of the thing in the first place. It’s been an unknown in my basement for 30 years.

How about the garbage disposal? What can go in there? I need special permission from Mary Ellen to use that device because the goop fills up the septic tank under the back yard. I miss that familiar grumbling sound. Oh, not from Mary Ellen: from the disposal.

My wife is also composting now. I fought this. If I wanted a woman who composted I would have left her years ago and married someone who wears white socks with sandals and listens to Joni Mitchell while she puffs the magic dragon.

We compost all leftover fruits and vegetables, and once a month a small company called Earth Mama picks up our container and for a small fee turns the waste into fertilizer for us. Some of the items we compost could just as easily be thrown in the woods for the birds and squirrels. Mary Ellen is now preparing a page of instructions for me so I don’t raise the birds’ cholesterol or the squirrels’ blood sugar.

About a month ago, I finished eating a delicious peach and placed the pit on the kitchen counter.

“What do we do with this?” I asked Mary Ellen.

“Oh dear, I have no idea.  Let me do a little research.”

The pit is still sitting there. We can’t recycle it or put it in the disposal or feed it to the animals in the forest.  Earth Mama comes tomorrow. Now it’s her problem.

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@ aol.com.