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The Neighbors’ Garbage


I just took our garbage to the bins, only to find them crammed full of our new neighbors’ throw-outs from moving. A large plastic box that had held 45 ounces of chocolate cake with extensive decoration caught my eye. The surviving label told me that the price had been $18.99 from the fresh bakery of a local market.

The box, at 11” x 14”, was made of a heavy clear plastic on top, with a black plastic base. The box was thrown out with about a pound of cake uneaten. While I admire the generosity of spirit that moved someone to contribute this masterpiece of baking to our new neighbors, it does create problems. The plastic should have been rinsed and placed in the recycle bins, but the cake stuck to it made this a major effort. The remaining cake did belong in the garbage, where eventually it would have broken down.

As I thought about this problem, it occurred to me that the responsibility for waste has been carried by the public while the proliferation of packaging by manufacturers and retailers has been unchallenged. Cake boxes, for example, could have coated paper bases with clear plastic tops. This would largely eliminate the need for rinsing as the leftover cake and its base would be degradable garbage and the top alone recyclable.

At least in Santa Barbara, city and county, can we not establish rules to reduce excessive packaging? As we become more populated and more overwhelmed with packaging we will eventually cover the whole county with heaps of single-use refuse. We need to find a better way.

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