The wild-and-woolly world of waste

When it comes to waste (and the disposal thereof), it’s a, figuratively speaking, jungle out there. And, it’s seemingly everywhere: It’s in outer space and in the seas. It’s in the air (in the form of air pollution), produced by living, breathing beings (nasal discharge, earwax, in the context also of evacuated or excreted bodily solids, to name several) and it also comes as a result of a seemingly endless array of production and/or consumption activities. And, there, apparently, is nowhere on the face of the earth that is untouched in some way, shape or form by the stuff, hence the “it’s seemingly everywhere” reference above.

So being there is so much of it, so much waste, that is, and being that a considerable amount of said waste directly or indirectly affects the air we breathe, what better opportunity is there than during Air Quality Awareness Week, this year being observed May 2 through May 6, to draw attention to and focus attention on this thorny issue.

Waste’s two sides: The production and processing of

The production of waste is the easy aspect. Far less so is the waste-processing element. It’s always been this way and it probably always will be.

Good waste and bad

There is both good and bad waste. The bad type cannot be readily disposed of. The bulk of it goes to the waste heap, otherwise known as the landfill. Some of it, depending on content, substance, must be handled extremely carefully or delicately, as would be the case with nuclear power-plant waste. If the waste is of a type that can be repurposed, reused, renewed or recycled, then by all means, it should be designated for and directed to one of these four processes for further handling provided the provisions for doing such exists. Would that it could, that’s the kind of waste that’s good.

Okay, so now that some of waste’s fundamentals have been covered, the list below, which, by the way, is by no means meant to be exhaustive, does, on the other hand, include several of the more popular methods of controlling, eliminating, reducing waste.


Not every homeowner wants nor has a need for a green-grass lawn. Xeriscaping is a process by which the yard is landscaped in a manner that enables soils to remain in place by not eroding, but also allows for pleasing aesthetics incorporating elements like walkways (concrete, decomposed granite, flagstone, paver or otherwise), strategically located appropriate vegetation (ground covers, shrubs and trees), accent features like pebbles (pea gravel), river rocks or boulders as well as items such as outdoor lighting (solar operated, preferably) which, all of it taken together, can do much and go far to not only reduce the amount of waste a typical yard incorporating a green-grass lawn can generate, but in some cases, outright eliminate, waste. Xeriscapes can be just what the doctor ordered for new dwelling-unit yard space as well as used as a suitable substitute for an existing lawn or for lawns already in place.

Through xeriscaping, think of all of the container-loads of grass clippings that can be eliminated, not needing to be sent to the municipal dump, that, and all of the money potentially saved from not having to spend on lawn care equipment like mowers, blowers, edgers and trimmers, and, in addition, in eliminating the need to purchase fuel for said equipment whether it be gasoline or electricity. Xeriscaping the grounds can be an excellent alternative.

Haste makes waste

In our oftentimes hurried lives and being that many of us are pressed for time, on many an occasion corners get cut. That can be a problem because waste can result.

Perhaps there is no better example of this than the one of unnecessary motor-vehicle idling taking place in none other than the fast-food, drive-thru line. Not only in this way does gasoline get burned, air becomes polluted and the money spent on such figuratively goes up in smoke, but many times results in long queues of vehicles with passengers waiting in lines, engines continuously running, and, depending on weather conditions present, necessitating the use of interior heating or air conditioning, which can lead to more fuel being wasted.

In situations such as these, drivers (and passengers) might do well to park the car, turn off the ignition switch, exit the vehicle and walk inside the fast-food eating establishment. In some cases, by doing so, the entire ordering process and the time to purchase the food items could very well be less than the time it takes to do the very same thing by waiting in drive-thru lines.

Special curbside refuse-collection events

Fresno, California has in place what is known as “Operation Cleanup.” The service is offered to households (families or individuals) residing within city limits.

The good thing about this once-a-year special refuse-collection service is that it gives households the opportunity to get rid of discards that do not otherwise qualify for gray (regular trash), blue (recyclables) or green (compostables) bin pickup. There are limits, however, on what can be thrown away having to do with amount, type and size of material to be dispensed with. Large tree stumps or tree trunks and chemicals like pesticides, for example, do not qualify. Special arrangements need to be made regarding disposal of these specific items.

Some items piled up at the curbside, as a matter of fact, never even get picked up by city employees assigned to do the pickup activity on account of this being taken by drivers driving around neighborhoods where said discards have been placed by participating residents. If the so-called spotters spot an item or two or three that they believe is of value to them, they will then help themselves to that item or items. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure? In instances such as these, such would seem to be the case.

Honorable mentions

A few of my all-time favorites:

1. Ambient air-dried laundry. Instead of using the automatic clothes dryer for drying laundry, hanging freshly washed laundry on racks made for such placed around the inside of the home, allows the laundry to dry in the ambient air. Turning on the ceiling fan can help speed up the drying process. If wrinkles are a concern, I find that this tends to not be an issue by drying in the dryer for several minutes only the laundry in question, that is, prior to being ambient-air dried.

2. Cloth versus paper napkin use. I prefer to use a cloth napkin as opposed to paper ones at the dining table. The cotton versions can be washed, dried (see number 1. above) and reused, whereas the paper equivalents that are used in lieu of are, for all intents and purposes, made for one-time use.

3. Light-sensing street lighting. The street lighting that uses light sensors to activate and deactivate said street lights, can both save on electricity use and extend light or lamp life. And, the less utility-supplied electricity consumed by such, the less opportunity there is for air pollution to be released into the atmosphere.

Working together

If each of us were a tad more mindful and wasted less – even if just a little less – both the air and the earth would invariably be in better shape. This is something every one would benefit from by doing, whether on Earh Day (Apr. 22), during Air Quality Awareness Week or all year long.

– Alan Kandel

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