On the Mayor's Mind: Garbage

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shari Winstead
Mayor of Shoreline
On the Mayor’s Mind


Many people have asked me if we are now “required” to separate our recyclables and compostables from our garbage. At first I thought it was an odd question, because I’ve been doing this since the garbage company started providing recycling bins. But when folks started mentioning the “requirement” and the new law, I realized the confusion - people were assuming that the City of Seattle’s new law applied to the City of Shoreline. It doesn’t. 

Everyone seemed relieved that Seattle’s law did not apply to Shoreline. This seemed kind of strange to me, too. So I asked if they already recycled/composted, and everyone said “of course!”. I was pleased to hear that they weren’t against recycling!

It’s interesting, though, that some people were annoyed there would be a law requiring recycling and composting. But I get that. I find myself annoyed when I go to the grocery store and realize all my canvas bags are inside my house instead of my car. The annoyance just increases as I “purchase” a paper bag that will inevitably rip. Even if it’s only a nickel. Last time I was bagless, however, I went “Costco style” and just had the clerk pile my groceries back into my cart as she rang them up. My penance for not having my reusable bags was a few extra minutes of my time, loading my items, one by one, into my car, and then carefully organizing things so I could carry them into my house. Not such a bad trade-off, and no bags! I realized, however that my annoyance was really at myself for not having my reusable bags in my car, more than the law requiring me to pay a nickel for a paper bag. The law is only meant to help encourage positive behavior.

Some people mentioned they were still getting used to “composting.” I was glad to hear they were at least trying. The compost bucket under their sink is not my husband’s favorite thing. But it closes securely, so it doesn’t smell, and it’s just as easy to toss the green compostable bag full of food scraps, or the pizza box, into the green yard waste container, as it is to toss it in the garbage can.

It’s great that so many of us are doing our part to recycle and compost. Hopefully there won’t be a need for a law. I’m still a little perplexed at the need to ban plastic bags, because my first canvas grocery bag was purchased in 1990. Not many of us are perfect, we all need a break once in awhile.

Many things have changed in our culture, brought on by necessity. How we deal with garbage is one of those things. We simply cannot continue to dump everything in a  landfill, like we have so thoughtlessly for so many years. For one thing, the landfills don’t exist like they did years ago. It is our responsibility to take care of Mother Earth, whether it’s recycling, composting, riding the bus or your bicycle. I feel good when I step on the bus to get downtown, and I will continue to feel great about hauling the big recycling and yard waste to the street, with a tiny garbage can, instead of the two big garbage cans our family had back in the 70’s.  

Changing anything can be hard, even uncomfortable, or annoying. But sometimes, it’s necessary - maybe not for you personally, but for future generations. Challenge yourself to think about what we can do for those not yet here, to leave the Earth better than we found it, for our kids, their kids and even their kids.

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