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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Garbage Day

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Originally published January 2, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

With the end of the year here, it feels like garbage day. I’d really like to toss 2008 without a second thought, but throwing out the garbage is not as simple as it used to be.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be done with 2008. It’s difficult to imagine a year with more bad news: the mortgage and banking crisis, plummeting economy, and rising unemployment. It’s the kind of year I’d like to throw in the trash, close the lid, and never see again.

Of course, throwing out the trash is not so simple anymore. Here in Piedmont, for example, it can take a bit of thought since the start of our expanded recycling service last summer. Nothing in my house gets tossed before evaluating if it belongs in the green, blue or black cart. Some days, it feels like a multiple choice quiz.

As an avid recycler, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But looking back, I can still recall the empty-headed satisfaction of the old days, when all it took was one quick toss and your troubles were gone.

For instance, when I lived in New York City years ago, I threw my trash down a garbage chute. To see my garbage disappear, after placing it inside a door in the wall, provided instant gratification. It also reminded me of watching a magic show. Now you see it, now you don’t. The trick mystified me because I had no idea what happened to my garbage and, at the same time, I was delighted by its disappearance.

Even further back as a child, I recall my parents disposing of Christmas wrapping by tossing it into the fireplace. As soon as the paper hit the fire’s flame, it would transform into a silvery film and then breezily float up the chimney, never to be seen again. It was as thrilling to me as watching a caterpillar transform into a butterfly.

These days, I wouldn’t dream of disposing of paper in the fireplace, knowing what we do about air quality issues. And we all know that garbage never disappears magically – it will stick around indefinitely if we don’t try to do something about it.

It’s the same with 2008. As much as I’d like to toss it out with the rest of the trash and never see it again, chances are, it’s going to linger even after the New Year arrives.

I’ve decided we have to consider recycling what we can of 2008. Not all of 2008 was garbage — it’s a matter of sorting it into the green, blue or black cart. If my old coffee grounds can be turned into fertilizer for farmers, for example, then surely something can be made out of the remnants of our battered economy.

I’m hoping the coming year is all about transformation, like the kind that happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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