Hi there! Welcome to my very miscellaneous blog. Here, I write about everything from mis-used words to gardening, to bad habits in society to going places and seeing things! Enjoy my ramblings.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ahh, Progress!

We have seen a lot of progress since the beginnings of humankind. From cave dwellers to hut builders, to stone workers, on up through the industrial revolution and into the present day. Wonders of imagination and invention galore are presented for our wonderment.

That said, let's examine the entire concept of 'progress.' Progress has been beneficial in many ways, not so in other ways. Put another way, progress only for its own sake is not always the best course of action.

Conversely, maintaining a tradition only for its own sake is no better.

I am reminded of the story of a new bride fixing a roast for her husband. He observed as she cut off the end of the roast prior to placing it in the pan. Curious, he asked her why she did this. "I don't really know," was the answer, "except that's the way my mom always did it."

Seeking a reason for this odd custom, the couple called the bride's mother and asked her. Her reply? Exactly the same: "I don't know; that's how my mother always did it."

As luck would have it, Grandmama was still living, so the next call went to her. "Why, Grandma, did you always cut the ends off the roasts?" "Well," replied the old woman, "that was the only way it would fit in the pan I had."

Mystery solved, but not applicable to the current couple's situation, and proof that 'just because that's always how it's been done" is not a good reason in and of itself for continuing a tradition.


On the progress side of the equation, comes much of modern packaging. Just because we can package products in plastic 'clamshells' that require a chain saw to open and a trip to the emergency room to stitch up the fingers sliced on the resulting sharp edges, does not mean we should use such packages!

Bread wrappers also come to mind. When I was growing up, bread was packaged in cellophane wrap. It was rather fragile, usually tore beyond the point needed for getting the bread out, and it did not keep the bread especially fresh. Bread going stale was a common problem.

No matter. There are lots of uses for stale bread: make croutons for salad or turkey stuffing; make French toast; make bread pudding; grind it up for crumbs for breading food, or even go feed the ducks in the park.

Today, bread is wrapped in much stronger plastic bags which do not tear so easily, and keep the bread fresh down to the last slilce. Trouble is, unless your family goes through bread at a fantastic pace, it tends to get moldy instead of stale. In contrast to all the listed uses for stale bread, I can think of none for moldy bread. Putting it in the refrigerator keeps it from going moldy, but it also somehow makes it of a disagreeable consistency.

Milk used to come in waxed paper cartons. They were biodegradable; now, it comes in plastic jugs, which are not. There are howls galore about all the non-biodegradable 'stuff' going into landfills. Recycling programs are not what they are cracked up to be, and much so-called 'recyclable' waste ends up in the landfills anyway.

There is much hue and cry about recycling and "greening the planet," however, many of the concepts fall under yet more of the rampant "ideas not well-thought-through." For example:

One should not dump discards as litter on the side of the road. They should be taken to an appropriate disposal facility. In theory, not an issue. In practice, however, this is not an affordable option for many people. Not only is there a fee to offload a truck or carload at the dumps, but additional fees are imposed for certain categories of items. Where I live, for instance, the basic dump fee runs approximately $35. per load. Not too bad, so far.

But then add on a special fee on top of the basic fee at these rates: $25 for things such as microwave ovens, televisions, mattresses, $75 for refrigerators, and suddenly the 'affordable' dump fee jumps out of line and out of budget range for many, many people. You can easily tell which items generate the extra charges, for those are the very things seen dumped on roadsides or in vacant lots or even abandoned in front or back yards causing visual blight and resulting dereliction of the neighborhood.

If city/county managers want to see proper disposal, then they must not make such excess charges for said disposal. If they are going to insist on those charges, then they must not complain about roadside dumping. They cannot have it both ways.

Likewise, curbside recycling programs are for the most part very flawed. Again, taking my own general region as an example, our curbside recycle program has a long list of items it will not accept, including 'chipboard' (which it defines as cereal box-type cardboard), several kinds of plastics, and other items.
They cite "lack of a post-consumer market" for these items. Oh, really? How very interesting, because the very next-door town accepts all of these items, and more, including some of the types of things which would normally be found taken to the dumps, such as discarded clothing and broken appliances--all can go in the recycle bin. Hmmmm.......

On the other side of this ludicrous recycling effort is the 'green waste,' otherwise known as garden waste. Back in historic times, this was not waste...it was composted back into the soil for growing next season's crops. No matter that we no longer each grow our own food--such use is still the purported end result of our modern green waste curbside pickup services.

Once again, however, the powers that be have failed a test of logic in their scheduling. In the next-door community mentioned above, their green waste is picked up each week. This is a city of fairly large homes, some on good-sized lots with ample landscaping; precious few remaining rural or semi-rural areas, and a good measure of the new "zero lot" homes, for homeowners who do not wish to be bothered with yard work, and on which the home takes up the majority of the property.
In any case, not a green-waste-heavy area.

In my town, though, there is a much larger share of rural, semi-rural and large lot homes, yet our green waste is picked up only every other week. Once a week would be better. Who was in charge of these schedules, and what were they thinking?

Our curbside recyclables, however, are picked up each week, while those of our neighbors, (who, as mentioned, can place many more types of items for recycle), are picked up only on the rotating week schedule. Guess whose bins fill up faster?? A no-brainer!

Meanwhile, the cardboard recycle for our picky-picky recycle community is taken away regardless of whether or not 'chipboard' has been included. Obviously, the collectors do not have the time (or inclination) to sort through the bin, so how would they know if any was included or not? Right. They won't. And in the end, it all goes to the same facilities, and through the same processes, so what does it matter? It is getting recycled, and I thought that was the whole point!!

In the end, I don't believe much is being done--it's all window-dressing and no real substance. Laws mandating recycling and landfill reduction are passed, but with no teeth for enforcement, and too many loopholes for various agencies to opt out of full compliance. If landfill reduction at a certain percentage has been mandated by law, then local agencies should not be allowed to refuse acceptance of any recyclable item. Period. What say you? Is it time to raise your voice to your own local government agency?

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