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Talkin' Trash Mar. 2, 2012
Follow the 3Rs of Waste Management to a Cleaner, Greener Lifestyle
Local artist Stepanie Sullivan creates butterflies from beverage bottles..JPG
Mariposa artist Stephanie Sullivan creates delicate butterflies from used plastic beverage bottles.

By Karen Dusek
Many of you are probably familiar with the 3Rs of waste management–
reduce, reuse and recycle. They are placed in this order for a reason. While all three activities are important, more water, energy and other resources are used and more pollutants are generated in reuse than in reduction and in recycling than in either reuse or reduction.

Reducing your consumption decreases waste (including water and energy) at many levels–manufacture, consumption and disposal. Using cloth napkins rather than paper, sponges or rags rather than paper towels and reusable shopping bags rather than plastic bags; printing on both sides of the paper; buying durable, repairable goods; buying only what you need (hints: make a list and stick to it: use a paint calculator to determine how much paint to buy—available at the landfill and the recycling display at the library: buy bulk if it makes sense for your lifestyle); and buying products that are minimally packaged with recyclable or reusable materials are a few examples.

Reuse is self-explanatory–finding new uses for materials you would otherwise throw away–rinsing jars and plastic bags for food storage; using old tea pots, milk cartons, bowls and other interesting items for planters, bird feeders, pencil holders, etc.; making quilts from old clothes; composting kitchen scraps; donating good used items to and shopping at thrift stores and yard sales; and so on. If you want to see some amazingly creative forms of reuse, come to our
Recycled Crafts Fair, which we will be co-hosting with the Mariposa SPCA again in the fall. (We have some photos of crafts from last year’s fair on our website. Linda Gast also posted some in her column in the Sierra Sun Times.)
Click to see
Linda's slide show.

If you like to make crafts and are looking for ideas for projects using “good used stuff” you have rescued from your waste basket, you can do a search under recycled crafts and find instructions for making everything from lamps out of old blenders to skirts, purses and rugs from worn out jeans to dryer lint sculptures.

Here are a few of my favorite sites:

     (Sierra Sun Times favorite site: pinterest )

Although recycling is the bottom tier, it is an essential component of good waste management practices. In an ideal world, we would be able to recycle everything that is not reusable, but, unfortunately, that isn’t possible. We do what we can given our constraints as a relatively small facility located in a relatively small, isolated community. Actually, I have lived in several towns and cities on both coasts and have traveled through most of the states, and I am impressed by the variety of materials Mariposa accepts for recycling and by the high level of participation by many of our residents compared to many other areas of the country.

Recycling redeemable bottles and cans for cash is a good start, but remember that removing paper, glass, aluminum, metal, cardboard, and #1, #2 and #3-7 plastic from your trash means much less trash you have to pay to dispose of. Add to that the materials that we collect (for free) that it is illegal to throw in your household trash—batteries, fluorescent bulbs and tubes, most electronics, oil and oil filters, mercury containing products, sharps—and you have saved yourself a substantial amount of money. For a complete list of materials accepted for recycling, please click on Events in the index.

I like to add a 4th “R” to the waste management hierarchy. I call it Re-buy. That simply means buying products that are made from recycled materials. Buying recycled increases the demand for recyclables and makes them more marketable, which helps us to find vendors willing to make the long trek up to Mariposa to haul them away.

There are more than 4,500 products now being manufactured with recycled content. The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) website features a Recycle Store with products made from waste materials generated within California. Go to: to see just a few of the imaginative ways waste is being put to good use.

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PO Box 784 | 5100 Bullion St. | Mariposa, CA 95338