Hmm. Well, I'm not sure about this book. Written in 1989, it is a bit outdated, (OK, a LOT outdated) but
as a long time recycler, the laws and practices of individual companies constantly change. When I want to get paid for what I recycle, I go to Alliance
Recycling, which takes a limited variety of materials—just about anything metal, and aluminum cat food cans, provided the labels have been removed, pay
45 cents a pound, which is about the same as they did back in 1989! They do not take plastic, but at one time took plastic bags, but didn't pay for them. The
same with glass and cardboard. I believe they did pay for cardboard, or maybe they still do, but unless you haul a semi filled with it, it's not worth
Our townships out here take metals, cardboard, magazines and newspapers, glass and plastics that are labelled recyclable, one which is close by and not out of the way, so most of what I accumulate goes there. For years the numerous bins were labelled according to materials, so everything had to be sorted, but for a number of years, they have been on the "single stream" method, where everything gets dumped together, but they can't be bagged when dumped, and there are security cameras to make sure people don't use it as a trash depository.
Here out in the country, paper can be legally burned. Food scraps and anything organic is composted, and I cringe when I read about suburban people putting bags of grass and leaves, kitchen garbage or GASP! edible food for the trash collector. I will go more into that later. Plus, our township has a once-a-year "clean-up" day, where residents can take both recyclable items, plus stuff that is harder to get rid of, like a limited number of tires per person and appliances. I'm not sure about the big ones, but there are always loaders or backhoes moving stuff, so they probably do. Plus computer components, but not building materials or toxic chemicals. Much of it will go in a landfill anyways, which is tragic. I once went seven years without participating because that's how long it took me to fill a bag. Our local Giant Eagle grocery stores have bins for plastic bag recycling, and I believe Walmart does, too. I haven't had trash pickup here for almost twenty years.
And that's the key to solving the trash problem. Don't generate it. The second paragraph of the Introduction also made me cringe, although it is a humorous book, so hopefully he was just trying to be funny. Keep in mind the date this was written.
I live with my family in a Midwestern suburb where it is still possible to dispose of anything simply by putting it out for the Wednesday garbage pickup. "Anything" may be an overstatement. I haven't tried everything. But I have put out small trees, leaking water heaters, defunct lawn mowers, and of course the endless tons of more commonplace trash: bags and bags of grass and leaves; newspapers and magazines, many barely skimmed; stacks of junk mail; bales of beer and soda bottles; and even some garbage. The amazing part, when you consider inflation and the cost of things. is that my garbageman takes it all away without complaint for the grand sum of eleven dollars a month. I consider that an incredible bargain—it's practically free.
But then he gets more realistic and to the point, that there is a waste-disposal crisis out there.
And he goes on to say that "the authorities have decided to change human nature." And "But not too fast—I need to talk myself into the new way to
dispose." Having written all that, I would guess that he is probably not really referring to himself, but to the "typical suburban American." At the time he
wrote this, he was the secretary of the Institute for Solid Wastes of the American Public Works Association and a member of the Solid Waste Advisory
Board and the Waste Reduction Program of the City of Chicago. In the years since then, Norm Crampton has authored a number of books on various topics.
This short book is arranged alphabetically by items and how to dispose of them the best way. Allow me to add my own commentary first, then I will continue
with some of his suggestions.
As I was reading through this book, the first thing that struck me was that very little of it applied to me, simply because I do not have a use for most of these items, therefore, I do not buy them. My shopping list varies little from week to week, which includes food items in packaging I can burn, reuse, or recycle, or recycle after it has been worn out by re-use, which is most often the case. Plastic containers go to the greenhouse where they are re-purposed in numerous ways. And plastic or glass bottles are used to keep drinking water for me in the fridge, for example. But the most important thing is that people are generally so massively wasteful and consume SO MUCH, or buy stuff they never use, then throw it out. For goodness sake, if you subscribe to a magazine or periodical, READ IT, or cancel your subscription. I have all mine from decades ago. If you must get rid of them, give them away. Libraries or Goodwill is a place to start. Or a yard sale. Be creative, not wasteful. And newspapers have SO MANY uses that I cannot imagine trashing them. Ditto for packing paper.
I buy only what I need, and if it is something I want, other than a necessity, the likelihood that I will throw it away is near zero. I always buy in bulk when I can and avoid single-serve, which is wasteful and more expensive. I buy a big box of oatmeal (burnable cardboard with a recyclable plastic lid) rather than the single-serve packets. If you like oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, toss the raisins in while it's cooking and add the brown sugar when it's done. I usually put diced apples in mine. I saw an ad in the Marc's sales flyer recently for individually wrapped prunes! OMG!! Next it will be raisins. HA! Isn't that ridiculous? And people don't realize they are also paying for the packaging!
And so my message is, learn to live frugally, because we are at the end, here on Planet Earth. If anyone is to survive what is coming, it will be those who have followed Henry David Thoreau's advice about voluntary poverty, and the example of Indigenous Americans who only took what they needed from the Earth to survive, and always gave back in return. Turn away from materialism, consumerism and just plain greed, carefully scrutinize your habits and ask yourself with every decision you make, how to make the choice that will do the least harm to the environment and the other life-forms that live here. We all fail miserably at this, because abuse and lack of reverence for the planet is built into this industrialized society. So with each choice that we make that takes us farther away from the status quo, we gain a victory for life on earth. Is it too late? Probably. But the changes we make in our attitude and respect for life will carry over to wherever we go after this, so that we may never make the same irresponsible mistakes again.
And now, here are some comments on the book. And since it is a short book, this will be a rather short review. As I said above, probably the vast majority of items he covers do not apply to me. I do not use toxic chemicals, and anything relating to my car is handled by my mechanic. Batteries are always returned as cores, the place I take my car to have any work done on tires disposes of the old ones, and down the street from them is a parts salvage business that always has a good used tire to fit my car. But some of his suggestions, such as pouring antifreeze down the drain. OH!! No, I would never do that. For small appliances, Crampton wrote that he could not find a place that took small appliances, so they slipped the old clock radio into a bag of charity clothing. Oh, my.
I agree with his suggestion for fireplace ashes—spread them around plants, trees, shrubs—but be careful to not overdo it. A bit of potash is healthy, but too much will actually kill the plant, hinder growth or prevent germination. Returning to batteries, this is what I do with the non-car variety. I carefully wrap them in packing tape or the duct tape that Marc's sells that is so sticky, nothing escapes. You want to make sure when you put them in that bag that will go to the township clean-up event, that the terminals do not touch, which may cause a spark or even a fire.
And as for books. I really can't imagine throwing a book away. The extremely few I opt to discard go to Goodwill. One item that he omitted was light bulbs (he had a category for fluorescent bulbs and fixtures, and I did not realize how toxic the fixtures are). Anyways, regular bulbs are another one of the few items that go to the township.
And I resent his comment about kitty litter and cats not being fastidious about having it cleaned. Oh yes they are! If the litter pan is not cleaned on demand, they will find other creative places to do their business. He suggests used litter to absorb motor oil for those who work on cars, but the better solution is to use wood shavings instead of commercial litter. It is a compostable material, and though I don't spread it in my vegetable compost pile, I use it to fill in all the ruts caused by flooding, mostly along my driveway.
And I will make the same comment about Christmas trees (or any trees or shrubs) that I made about grass and leaves. All of these can be composted. When I was still in music as a profession, I taught piano at people's homes in a very high-class village. One of my students, or rather two—the daughter and husband had a mother/wife from the Philippines. Even in this hoity-toity town, all kitchen garbage and compostables went out the back window. This woman had the most gorgeous flowers and also was an expert in growing rare orchids. Even if you live in a city apartment, there are ways communities get together and collect organic scraps to be put to good use. At one time in California, there were restaurants that paired with organic farms. The farms provided produce while the restaurant returned the scraps. That should be a law, but of course no franchise restaurants would bother because it wouldn't be profitable for them, and fast-food places are the worst. Incidentally, the best way to dispose of the endless stream of Styrofoam or other fast-food containers is to NEVER eat fast food. Put them out of business! YES!! I would like to see ALL restaurants go out of business with the exception of those who are environmentally oriented (and vegetarian/vegan).
But back to putting out leaves, grass, etc. on the curb. Fortunately many towns and suburbs now do have trucks that collect it, along with woody plants to be chipped and shredded. Some places allow people to take it for mulch. I know quite a while back I got some free mulch in Ravenna, and others use it for public landscaping.
And as for clothing—by the time I discard mine, it is barely fit for rags! I buy clothes for the long-haul. For junk mail, there is (or was in 1989) a number you could call in NYC to get your name taken off the junk mailing list. It is, or was Direct Mail Marketing Association, 212-689-4977. I did not look that up, but with everything being run by AI now, I wouldn't be so sure it's still around. I had my phone number on the DO NOT CALL list, but I still got calls. I always reported them, but it did no good. Now, my solution is perfect. I keep my phone in a plastic Walmart bag. (It is a land-line phone.) I tell that to people and they're supposed to laugh, but instead they just look at me stupid. Except for my mechanic. He laughed. I plug it in when I need to use it, otherwise, I really have no desire to speak to anyone on the phone. My solution for junk mail is just as good, and I get almost nothing. Whenever a junk letter arrives, I write, "wrong address, return to sender." I've done that for a couple decades and though it took a little while, it's paid off. In fact, I get almost NO mail at all.
As for rat and mouse poison, or any poison, PLEASE don't use it. It is a cruel way to kill an animal. If you must get rid of rodents, use a trap that usually kills pretty instantly with little suffering. Better yet, don't leave anything out that will draw rodents in the first place. And another thing we should stop buying is beverages in six-pack plastic yokes. How many millions of birds, fish and other animals have suffered or died by getting caught in them. There is nothing I buy that uses them. I think that's the best solution.
The last one I will mention is weed killers. We're talking Roundup here which should have been taken off the market DECADES ago, and even though Bayer has paid $billions in Monsanto lawsuit settlements, the profit they make from this lethal product keeps it on store shelves. Don't buy it, don't use it, it has contaminated everything on the planet. Glyphosate is found is everything, even organic and Non-GMO foods. Stay away from it. If no one buys it, it will go off the market. That's called boycotting and is one of the most effective activist tools we have.
And a word about landfills, which are under the Plastic Bags heading, and refers to the biodegradable bags. Here's a quote.
But the more important question is how much biodegrading actually occurs in a landfill. In fact, much less than is commonly believed. Excavations of old dump sites have unearthed 30-year-old garbage more or less intact. Over the decades there may be as much as a 20% reduction in the volume of buried garbage—very little compared to the 80% reduction in a backyard compost pile. The difference? A general lack of air and water under ground.
And let me close with a bit of humor. Or not. Here's a quote from the section on Construction Debris. It is a story told by David Brinkley of a Georgetown gardener who couldn't dispose of thirty-five landscaping bricks. (Why would she want to, I wonder?) Anyways, when she called the D.C. Department of Sanitation to ask why the garbagemen would always out them back on her sidewalk, this is the answer she got.
"Madam, our trucks are not allowed to haul away building materials. If they did, when anybody remodeled a house, they'd find a huge pile of lumber and pipe and junk, and they're not equipped to handle it."
"Then how do I get rid of these bricks?"
"Madam, do you work somewhere in town?"
"Yes, at the Agriculture Department."
"How do you get to work?"
"On the bus."
"All right, here's what you do. Each morning wrap one brick in a newspaper and take it with you, and when you get off the bus, leave it on the seat."
Oh, goodness. Let us hope that's not a true story! Anyways, this is certainly not a great book, or
perhaps even a good one, but it serves the purpose of making people aware of what a wasteful society we are here in the U.S.A. and though all wealthy
industrialized nations are, to some extent, most are not as bad as us, and that's not only shameful, but it is about to drastically change.
As far as recycling, I don't believe there are any national general guidelines or laws to follow, so it is up to each person to research their particular county or township to learn what is available to help us all recycle whatever we can and dispose of the remainder in the most safe and non-polluting way. But again, the ONLY WAY to stop the mountains of waste being generated is to stop generating it in the first place. That seems like a really simple solution to me.
Below is about the only information I could find on Crampton, plus his Goodreads page and Amazon page, both which include this book. It doesn't seem to be available as a free eBook or PDF.
Norm Crampton is an author and journalist living in Bloomington, Indiana. A Chicago native and graduate of Northwestern University, he began reporting on the police beat at the Chicago Sun-Times and moved on to magazine and newsletter editing and freelance writing. His articles have appeared in national publications including USA Weekend and American Legion.
During a career of 40-plus years he has authored seven how-to books, including Complete Trash, the first popular household guide to recycling and a selection of the Quality Paperback Club; How To Get from the Airport to the City All Around the World, recommended in the Travel Section of The New York Times; and The 100 Best Small Towns in America.
Norm has been interviewed by national media including NBC Nightly News, NPR, and Good Morning America. The Washington Post came to rural Indiana for a story about Norm's book about life in small towns, and The Wall Street Journal featured Norm in a story about older guys who choose to keep working rather than retiring.
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