Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Water, sewage, trash, hazardous waste, recycling

I also read an article this morning about disposing of compact flourescent light bulbs, and how to clean up after them if they break. Now, most of us know that you can't just put them in the garbage, but what to do if your area doesn't have an accessible hazardous waste drop-off site. When we were moving here, I tried to dispose of small propane gas tanks (apparently left by the former owners) - the size used on a small camping stove - no place to take them unless they were empty. One government person suggested that I use something to open the valve and let the propane out into the atmosphere and throw them in the regular trash. Oh yeah, I want to poke something in that hole and be hit by pressurized propane - not to mention the explosion danger. What I did was find someone who had a small camping stove and gave them to her. I didn't know which ones were empty and which weren't.

And, you can throw away dried paint but not liquid paint. So, you set the bucket outside and let it dry out, then put it in your trash. I think I've missed the point on this one. If you can't send liquid paint to the dump, wouldn't letting the dangerous fumes and stuff evaporate into the air be harmful?

I think I don't understand some of our trash disposal and recycling. I keep reading, but different areas have different rules. Through taxes and utilities, we pay for recycling of glass, metal cans, plastic and newsprint. They won't take magazines and junk mail. We have to collect them and carry them to a separate site (operated by the same company that picks up our recycling). Likewise with yard waste, cardboard, packing styrofoam, etc. Our trash pickup is Pay as You Throw - put a sticker on your can for every three kitchen size trash bags - stickers cost $2.50 each.

We're told that washing a full load of dishes in the dishwasher takes less water and energy than washing them by hand. But, unless I use the drying cycle on my diswasher, I get mineral spotting on my dishes - some of which becomes permanent. So, I'm probably not saving anything by using the dishwasher except my sanity.

And, this brings up the subject of water. Our county water is very soft, very full of minerals like calcium and chlorine. It tastes terrible and upsets my stomach. We got bottled water and a dispenser when we first moved here. Then we noticed that our skin was itching all the time, despite lotions and changing soaps and all the usual stuff. One morning I was overwhelmed in the shower by the chlorine odor. So, we had a whole house water filer put in that takes out the chlorine and some other things. Finally, we resorted to a reverse osmosis system for one small tap in the kitchen so that we could cook and wash food safely. Yet, all the required reports for our county water system are good.

So where does all this water go? Into our septic tank. Our county offers residents in our area hookups to the county sewage system. This is somewhat misleading. What they actually offer (for several thousand dollars installation and a monthly fee) is a pumpout of your septic tank when it reaches a certain overflow level. For $100, I can get the septic tank pumped out by a local for-profit company.

We do what we can. We recycle everything that the recycling center will take; we wash only full loads of dishes and clothing. We drive our high mileage cars most of the time - hard to fit a sheet of plywood in one of them. But, I did put five people in my Prius recently for an all day outing. No one was unduly crowded.

Learning to conserve our earth's resources is not easy. I've worried so much this morning that I think I need a Twinkie, now.

1 comment:

klady said...

I'll join you in that twinkie!

Yes, it really takes quite a lot to sort through the best ways (always at present) to conserve. What really struck me about Kingsolver's book on food was that *we* spend/waste so much on travel expenses for food -- what it costs in terms of fuel consumption and other resources to ship things all over the world. I'm no economist but her entire book makes me wonder about our entire global economy in much deeper ways than I ever imagined.

But back to the day to day problems of what to do at home, it's tough. I'm horrified at the gas mileage on my new Subaru, but it had the highest safety ratings and it's AWD is such a great help here in the wintertime. So hard to draw the line between self-interest and community, local and worldwide.

Maybe I'll take a walk and think about it some more (after that Twinkie!). Thanks for raising these issues.