sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 22, 2012

Earth Day Special: How to Upcycle Your Garbage Service

Filed under: Bay Area politics, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:56 am

Earth Day weekend AND a heatwave.  Goody!

At my last me time appointment my dentist said, jokingly of course, that he’s telling his children to go into waste management.  They’ll get to drive a big truck and wave at toddlers.  No education is required, and it’s union.  Doctors, on the other hand, have to study, pay rent and insurance and all that, and at the end the money is probably the same.

Our garbage collectors have major attitude issues.  Last time they didn’t pick up our yard trimmings because the lid of our green garbage basket wasn’t fully closed, as per instructions.  I had to call and complain, and they told me to remove some of contents and sent their truck the next day, once the excess disposal was stored in my yard.  I’m not sure how green it is to divert a huge truck to pick up our garbage off schedule.  I doubt it’s financially sound, too.

Evidently they have people in their office compiling lists of arts and crafts projects for us common people and posting them on their website.  Waste Management doesn’t want to see their customers merely recycling old crap, they want their customers to get arty.  They call it an “upcycle”, and they put an ad in the paper we get to inform us about the existence of the webpage.

amazing upcycling

That's what I call civilization!

Turns out, it’s possible to DIY recycled paper.  Will the skill come handy once the dollar collapses, I wonder…  There is a way to turn a lowly cookie sheet into an Advent calendar — “[e]ven those who do not follow Advent”.  And oh, have you ever stitched yourself a hat out of 70s neckties?

necktie hat

I know an upcycle when I see one

To make jewelry out of an old CD assemble:

  • An unwanted CD
  • A pair of scissors
  • Something to heat the CD with (optional)
  • Something to file the edges with
  • Something to drill a hole with
  • An old necklace chain (with links), and a clasp if the chain doesn’t have one
  • Earring hooks (or clips, if you prefer)
  • Jump rings, or a leftover piece of wire long enough to be bent into a loop
  • Small pliers and wire cutters

That should be easy!  I already have a pair of scissors, and I’m sure DH owns pliers and wire cutters.  Home Depo might be able to advise about these “somethings” they mentioned, it’s only a question of being able to fill my gas tank at current prices to get to the store.  From then on I can reduce, reuse and upcycle while using a nice array of electric and/or battery-powered tools.

To make a vase out of a wine bottle, in addition to a wine bottle with label peeled off, procure:

– (1) Top plate connector/ceiling flanges (3/8″ size)
– (1) 1″ split ring hanger
– (2) screws to fit and hold the top plate connector (you may also want drywall anchors if you are not mounting directly into studs or another material)
– (1) piece of 3/8″ threaded rod, cut into 2 1/2″ pieces.
– 1/2″ double sided foam mounting tape (optional – if your bottle’s neck is smaller than 1″, like ours were)
– Silk flowers of your choice.

And to think that for years I was just sticking flowers in a bottle because I thought the label was cute!

For a cool scarf pillow one only needs a cool scarf and a pillow (in addition to sawing machine and notions).  To find cool scarves, browse second hand establishments at your leisure.  Patience and, again, gas money are required.  What I’m trying to get to is this: if vintage DIY aesthetic is your thing, go for upcycling, just don’t pretend you are saving the planet.

I actually like the homemade look, and I will be doing DIY projects with my children once they are old enough to develop necessary hand-eye coordination.  I do realize that these DIY projects are environmentally taxing.  The fact that they require more human and natural resources makes them seem well loved.  Plus I adore the mystique of vintage (well, not the 70s necktie kind).

Quite a few trendy merchants do the upcycled look these days.  Their merchandize is not inexpensive.  If Etsy is pricier than Wall-mart it’s in part because Etsy’s vendors who work on small scale have high overhead because they are unable to maximize the use of energy and other resources in the way that economy of scale allows.

While big retailers manufacture their products in polluting factories overseas, an American small-time craftsman still uses equipment and supplies made in China.  Industrial scale manufacturers have one big machine that works all day for many years, but my handy neighbors use theirs little ones intermittently.  That’s not the shrewdest use of resources.  The chains deliver their products on airplanes and in large trucks, Etsy vendors drag their SUVs all over the town when they run their errands.  Were Etsy environmentally sound, it would probably be cheaper, too.

What really bothers me is that somebody somewhere is actually drawing a salary for compiling lists of DIY projects, and that this salary is not paid for by a private source (I would have no problem with that) but by fees imposed on private residences by a company with a government contract.  What I expect from my garbage service is timely and cheap disposal of refuse.



  1. If like 75% of the population wasn’t obese people wouldn’t do this stuff.

    Once you’re sure to get as much vegan tofu meatless chicken patties as your little artsy Liberal heart desires you have so much time on your hands to appear trendy, clever, and arty.

    I just go to the goodwill and all that time I save I wonder about why someone would want to glue a CD they found in the street on their hat and show everybody how cool they are.

    Comment by Harrison — April 22, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    • RONTFL! I recommend gluing CDs directly to fat people’s foreheads.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 23, 2012 @ 8:30 am

      • Sure but a better idea is to turn them into mini solar panels. That way they can be tools AND save the planet.

        Well, that’s what I’ll do.

        Comment by Harrison — April 24, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  2. ah, yes, the garbage nazis! I first ran into them on Whidbey Island, WA state. My trash bin lid was a couple inches from closed. Horrible me! A well-placed push on the garbage woulda fixed the issue, but I didn’t know about them lid regs, LOL. I had to pay for special bags for my excess bags, since I didn’t have enough space for garbage until the next week’s pick up.

    Don’t you just love being told how artsy you can be with your garbage, while being oppressed by garbage nazis all the while??

    For what it’s worth, I’ve not run into the garbage nazis since then. Virginia Beach VA, Huntingdonshire UK, Norfolk VA, and now Ft Leavenworth KS: no garbage micromanagement yet. We’ll see how Tampa treats us, LOL . . .

    Comment by nooneofanyimport — April 22, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

    • That’s because Washington state is basically greater California. In our area I kin kind of get away with the lid of my garbage garbage container not being fully closed, but garbage collectors personally check the compost bin to make sure we are not hiding something there. What I find ironic is that they want to encourage people to compost, but they act like a$$holes.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 23, 2012 @ 9:05 am

  3. This is why I always prefered living in rural communities. I would bag the garbage and haul it to the landfill myself.

    Comment by Conservatives on Fire — April 23, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  4. If I had to guess, they probably are getting encouraged to think junk like this up on their “free time” in the office, so they get paid, but it’s not really anyone’s job. I could be wrong, though.

    The thing that always gets me is the amount of trash people generate. My green neighbors usually fill their extra-large trash cans, while we usually only have to put our smaller can out every other week. I don’t get what they’re buying that builds up that much crud. But then they tell me to be more green… um, okay.

    In Portland, by the way, we’re allowed to have the lid up, but the garbage men have a choice of noting it and charging us extra.

    Comment by Jim Fister — April 24, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    • I think you are right. They employ coordinators, or whatever they call it, who are supposed to come up with new things. In any event, if their employees have time to compile “upcycle” lists, they clearly employ too many people.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 24, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  5. Thank god the garbage collectors have consented to improve our consciences. Recycling. It’s for the common folk!

    Comment by Infidel de Manahatta — April 24, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  6. Upcycling?


    Comment by KingShamus — April 25, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  7. I have a theory: humans have evolved to worry about stuff, ie, the yearly fish-run; the weather; plague; accidents… all those horrors that could fall on us without mercy. OK. Today, in our Western world, there is nothing terribly dramatic to worry about. For most people, the kind of God of the Bible is just too darned complex to think about. But, we must BE PREPARED FOR THE ONCOMING APOCALYPSE! Meaning, Climate Change. Do you beleevvve??? And just like the more nasty religious governments, these Gaia Worshippers have taken over local garbage disposals, etc., and then… hire artists to make colorful pamphlets to make us all (a) “understand” why our garbage must be placed just so; and (b) “love and believe” that our actions (sorting, bagging, reading the regulations just like our ancestors read Leviticus… and so we go. Only darn it, it doesn’t look like we’re going to come out of us with anything like a cathedral.

    Comment by heathermc — April 25, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

    • Very true. On the other hand, there are things we can still worry about, like the national debt or nuclear Iran and North Korea. It’s like people are willfully ignoring and minimizing real dangers, because it’s good to be mellow, but then turn around and imagine weird apocalyptic scenarios.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 26, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

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