KSU rediscovers uses for garbage

Food waste from two of the dining halls at Kansas State University is being salvaged and turned into compost which is used to fertilize a campus garden. Vegetables grown there may find their way back to the dining hall tables and the cycle will begin again. Authorities told the Associated Press that about 1,500 pounds of food waste is being collected every week.
A good idea, but not a new idea.
In the not-so-distant past the city of Iola hired garbage collectors who fed their pigs with the day’s haul. The pigs, needless to say, turned into bacon and ham and the cycle began again.
At the beginning of the American story, the natives found by the Pilgrims buried dead fish in their rows of planted corn to fertilize the seed.
What is different in the experiment at K-State is the willingness to recognize that contemporary America — like the other rich countries of the world — is sinfully wasteful. Rather than reclaim and reuse, we bury or burn millions of tons of food, paper, plastic, oil, grease, wood, aluminum foil, etc., etc., etc. every day of the year.
It is probably true that reclaiming most of what now goes into landfills would cost more than the recycled material is worth in dollars and cents. That is beside the point, which is that much of our waste should never have hit the garbage can in the first place.
As K-State is rediscovering, food prepared but not eaten by people should not be thrown away or ground up and flushed into the Neosho through the kitchen sink disposal. Some of it should be fed to animals; some should be turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Paper should be saved and turned into insulation as is done with the tons collected every six weeks or so by the Iola Rotary Club in cooperation with Allen County.
Opportunities to save plastic, which is made mostly from imported oil, are without number. For starters, states should require deposits on plastic, aluminum or cardboard containers used to hold water, coffee, soda pop, ice cream concoctions and other consumables purchased at stores or eateries, as many states now do on beer bottles.
If deposits were high enough, littering would take a nose dive and it would become fashionable once again to serve beverages in washable glasses and cups. More to the point, less oil would be imported and less energy would be used to manufacture containers used only once and then tossed.
A specific target of such a conservation campaign should be plastic water bottles. Some cities are now taxing drinking water sold in plastic bottles because they have become so prevalent they are reducing sales of tap water as well as proving to be a burden to landfills, where they take up space and don’t decompose for centuries. The water bottles also are tossed into streams and find their way into oceans where they are doing harm to the world’s fisheries, oceanographers say.
Bottled water is a pointless extravagance in wealthy nations like ours where tap water is actually safer to drink and reusuable containers can be used to carry potable water wherever it is wanted.
Grocery shoppers can do their part by taking purchases home in a cloth shopping bag and saying no to both paper and plastic at the checkout counter.
A change of attitude by society as a whole will be required — and will occur as the cost of waste and waste disposal mounts. That new day will arrive faster with a little help from planet lovers.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.