May 23, 2009

Free the Cans! Working Together to Reduce Waste

trash can photo small.jpgIn a blog about how people share, it's worth the occasional reference to the bizarre ways that people DON'T SHARE. Is it safe to say we live in a society that places great value on independence, private property, personal space, and privacy? Even sometimes extreme value? Is that why people at an 8-unit apartment building in Oakland, CA have separate caged stalls for eight separate trash cans? I know it's not nice to stare, but I walked by these incarcerated cans and could not help myself. I returned with my camera, so that I could share my question with the world: Why can't people share trash cans or a single dumpster? Or, at the very least, why can't the cans share driveway space?  

The Zero Waste Movement has come to the Bay Area and it calls for a new use for these eight cages. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Turn two of those cages into compost bins. Fill one with grass, leaves, and vegetable scraps, let it decompose for six months, then start filling the second bin in the meantime.
  2. Put in a green can, which is what Oakland uses to collect milk cartons, pizza boxes, yard trimmings, and all food to send it to the municipal composting facility. If your city doesn't do this yet, tell them it's a great idea and they could be as cool and cutting edge as Oakland.
  3. Put in one or two recycling cans for glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, aluminum, etc.
  4. Put out a FREE STUFF box for unwanted clothing and household items. The neighbors could sort through it each week, and later put it out on the curb for passers-by to explore. Take what's left to Goodwill or a comparable donation spot.
  5. Put in a few small bins for various items that can be recycled, such as batteries and electronics, which can then be taken to an electronics recycling center every month or two. Styrofoam can be brought to a local packaging store or ceramics business that accepts used packaging material. Or, if you accumulate a bunch of plastic bags,take them to a store or to some other place that accepts used ones.
  6. Put in ONE trash can. By the time you compost, recycle, re-use, redistribute, and take a few other measures to reduce your waste, you'll have almost no trash each week.
  7. Install a bicycle rack or locked bicycle cage.
  8. With the leftover space, put in a container garden and a bench where neighbors can gather and chat. A much more pleasant alternative to the garbage can jailhouse ambiance, wouldn't you agree?