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Natural Perspectives: Time to recycle, reduce, reuse

December 15, 2010|Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray write about better consumption methods for Orange County to avoid overfilling the landfills
  • Homemade jams make nice Christmas presents that generate no trash and taste great.
Homemade jams make nice Christmas presents that generate… (HB Independent )

While Lou is busy with Christmas preparations, I decided to take a crack at writing this week's column. The Christmas holidays are a good time to think about trash. That sounds odd until you think about the amount of trash that this holiday generates.

Fortunately, cards, envelopes, cardboard boxes and Christmas trees can be recycled or composted. To reduce the amount of stuff that eventually ends up in a landfill, Lou and I try to think of presents that don't generate trash. Edible presents, like cookies or homemade jams in reusable jars, are one option. Services, such a gift certificate for a spa, are another trash-free option.

You might wonder how I came up with this topic. I teach a class about environmental problems for the adult education program at Irvine Valley College. I lecture about air pollution and water pollution, about human overpopulation and over-dependence on fossil fuels.

And I lecture about trash.

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Whether you call it trash, garbage or solid waste, most of us don't spend much time thinking about it. We hurry to get our trash cans out to the sidewalk on our assigned night of the week and pull them back to the side of the house the next day. Once it's gone, it's no longer our problem. Right?

Wrong.

People pay a lot of attention to trash in cities that experience trash collector strikes. When that happens, the trash piles up on the streets week after week — as is happening right now in one town in Italy. It's disgusting and unhealthy.

Here in Huntington Beach (and Fountain Valley), our trash is collected by Rainbow Disposal, a company that has served us faithfully for many decades. Because it does a good job, we tend to take it for granted.

But remember, Rainbow (and the other companies that operate in other towns) only collect and transport the trash. They can't make it disappear like stage magicians do with coins, cards and rabbits. Material from the blue bins is recycled. Material from the green bins is composted. But material from the brown bins goes to one of three landfills operated by the county.

Last week, I took my students on a tour of one of those landfills. We visited the Prima Deshecha landfill just outside San Juan Capistrano. There, the trash from south Orange County gets buried. Perhaps "interred" would be a better word.

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