Ecocentricity Blog: There Is No "Away"

Nov 14, 2018 10:00 AM ET

John Lanier and his family have made great strides in reducing their waste stream at home. Organics go in the compost bin. Recyclables go in the blue bin, and other recyclables are regularly taken to Atlanta’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials. Now they've discovered the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box.


The scene begins. Luke, Han and Chewy hop off the elevator at the Death Star’s detention level and exchange pleasantries with the Imperial officer. Chewy smacks a guy and blaster fire erupts. The 1970s special effects dazzle us all. The bad guys go down.

Then Luke rescues Leia from her cell. She immediately insults his height. Luke doesn’t take it personally. More bad guys show up and we are dazzled again. Leia takes Luke’s blaster and blows open the cover on the garbage chute. She jumps in, then Chewy, Luke and Han. Oddly, the bad guys don’t follow them…. Whatever you say George Lucas!

Splash. Han and Leia have their first of many spats. Chewy helplessly bangs on the door. Then some octopus-like thing that apparently lives on Death Star garbage grabs Luke and tries to drown him. Luckily, it lets him go right as the walls start closing in to compress the trash. Unluckily, the walls start closing in to compress the trash.
And at the end of the day, R2-D2 saves them all by hacking into the Death Star computer and shutting down the trash compactor. Who’s the real hero here? End scene.
I love Star Wars: A New Hope, but the underlying premise of that scene is kind of ridiculous. They are aboard a technologically advanced battle station capable of literally blowing up planets, but the Empire’s architects and engineers couldn’t figure out a better thing to do with trash than toss it in a compactor that is so gross an alien-octopus lives in it? I’d like to think that if we ever unlock the secrets of interstellar travel, we will have designed a better waste management system than that.
Or…you know…they’re in outer space…. Why not just eject your garbage out into the black nothingness if you can’t figure out something better to do with it? As my grandfather used to say, there’s no “away” here on earth where we can throw our trash. Not so on the Death Star!
Anyway, enough about all of that. Recently, my wife Chantel discovered TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes. I had known about this recycling company for years, but I didn’t know about these boxes. After buying one online, TerraCycle ships the box to you with a pre-affixed mailing label. Then you load the box up with hard-to-recycle items and ship it to TerraCycle, at which point they sort your “trash” and find recycling streams for it all. The box’s price reflects the economic costs associated with keeping these items out of the landfill.
We decided to give it a try, sorting our waste stream between organics for compost, blue bin recyclables, other recyclables that we can take to Atlanta’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, and finally the Zero Waste Box. Ideally, we would be able to live a zero-waste life, but we still can’t quite get there - our largest remaining waste-to-landfill items are our kids stinkin’ diapers (hehe). TerraCycle can’t take those back, and we made the decision to use disposable diapers instead of reusable ones given our concern over Atlanta’s water resources.
We aren’t letting perfect be the enemy of good here though. Moving toward sustainability requires all of us to take incremental steps when we can, and this was a step that Chantel and I felt that we could take. So take a look at TerraCycle and consider if you too can pursue zero waste in your home.
p.s. – For anyone paying attention, you might recall that I used this Star Wars scene as a lead-in for a blog post last December. You’re dang right I’m using it again! I’m not above recycling content (hehe again).
Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858