Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Musings: Throwing it all away

Tuesday is trash day in my neighborhood. Walking down the street, Venus at my back and the moon, full tomorrow, hiding somewhere before me behind thick clouds over Waialeale, I pass dozens of garbage cans, some with extra rubbish piled on top.

I’m intrigued by our weekly ritual of tossing stuff out. The EPA says Americans generate 245 million tons of opala every year, a lot of it usable, and 12 percent of it food. We on Kauai contribute our share. I’m happy when my own small can is less than half full, although even that amount surprises me, since I bury kitchen scraps in the garden, recycle everything I can and rarely shop. Where does it all come from? It seems impossible, in this material world, to eliminate rubbish altogether.

Invariably Koko and I encounter the garbage truck, zigzagging across the road to collect trash on both sides of the street, lights flashing in the semi-darkness, two guys hanging off the back. Hoisting the contents of each can into the big bin on the truck, they understand better than any of us the fall out from consumer culture. And then the compressor starts up, squishing the trash so more can be packed in, tighter and tighter. This is Koko’s favorite part of the scene: sniffing the juice that’s squeezed out of our leftovers, the thin, milky trickle that stains the pavement.

Graffiti spray painted on a refrigerator dumped at Upper Kapahi Reservoir: what, no shame?

I’m not into shaming, but the message behind the admonition is one we can all take to heart, even when our unrelenting stream of trash is neatly hidden beneath the plastic lids of our beige, black, blue or gray cans.