Sunday, October 17, 2021

Embracing A New World Of Mandatory Composting

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published October 18, 2021] © 2021

It's going to be a whole new trash world on January 1 when California residents will be required to recycle food waste. Yup, all those chicken bones, shrimp tails, coffee grounds, moldy lunch meat, vegetable peelings, and greasy fast-food papers. Even those scrambled eggs your picky toddler wouldn't eat.

Concept-wise, Senate Bill 1383, the legislation behind this change, is a fantastically good idea. Currently, almost 41% of the city's waste composition is methane-producing organic material, apparently a far bigger contribution to global warming than carbon dioxide. 

Increasing the win, this organic waste could be converted to fertilizer, compressed natural gas for vehicles, or uses not yet imagined. 

As with all such drastic changes, even ones that are well-intentioned, I anticipate some serious problems in the transition.

A major issue, of course, will be compliance. 

Persons or businesses failing to comply could be slapped with "fines."  By whom? And how? As with the Water Police a few years ago (asking residents to rat out their neighbors for running sprinklers on other than their designated days or times), I think this one is problematical.  Will County Food Waste vigilantes be wandering around on trash day sniffing Hefty bags for whiffs of pizza crusts?  Or worse, slicing the bags open? Will public shaming with the offending food waste - presumably left on the bin lid along with a citation - become a thing?

Apparently, part of this plan is that all the people who don't yet have city-issued green waste bins (that would be my area) will be issued them.  The organic food waste would go in there - no plastic bags - along with the yard waste. 

Part of what worries me is that those city-issued bins of all colors (black for trash, blue for recyclables, green for greenery) are no match for city trash trucks. I'm on my fourth black at this point and it didn't take them two pick-ups to split the lid. The trash trucks literally hurl those things to the ground.  On my street, you'd be hard put to find a black bin that isn't duct-taped together.  I have this fantasy that the trash guys entertain themselves by seeing who can splinter the most bins in a given trash day.  ("Good one, George! You got the wheels totally off that one!")

I'm trying to even imagine the rat problem if we have food waste sitting in fractured green bins. Rats can squish themselves into a half-inch high space.  (I know of what I speak.) They wouldn't even have to try if half the lid is gone. I can feel the local rodentials celebrating already.

The other issue that I don't think the state has quite worked out is what do do with all that food waste between consumption and trash pickup, even if those currently-picked-up twice-a-week greenery bins are picked up once a week.  Remember, no plastic bags. Warm climate. A little research found that it will be recommended that residents wrap their food waste in newspapers or paper grocery bags and keep it in their refrigerator or freezer until trash day. No offense, but this suggestion was clearly made by a guy.  (In point of fact, it was.)

The idea of keeping a paper grocery bag in my fridge full of food waste frankly makes me gag. Your best hope is that your teenager will eat it. They're fortunately pretty non-discriminating.

It would especially make me gag when I pulled the bag out of the fridge on trash day and the bottom fell out because all of that food waste was wet. It is for this reason that the plastic bag industry has been so successful.

I have read that the city may help this somewhat by issuing countertop food containers to put waste in between trash pickups. The picture I saw of it means I'd have to dispense with my blender and my mini-Cuisinart on my limited counter space. Definitely sounds better than the fridge solution but even then, how do its aromatic contents get from there to the green bin?

I actually have first-hand experience with food waste. When my older son Rory was in fifth grade, he accidentally threw out his $200 dental appliance with his lunch bag. As a divorced working mom living paycheck to paycheck, I most definitely could not afford a new one. I took off an afternoon from work, and with the school's permission, worked my way through the school's dumpster, opening bag after bag of the detritus of that day's lunch. Let me tell you, I can attest that a lot of food is wasted in this country. None of the kids ate the fruit. Most didn't eat the bread crusts. And by the way, I did find the dental appliance. But I have never recovered from the experience.

Come 2022, there is going to have to be a crash course for everyone on What Goes In What Bin. Because as of January 1, there can be no food in the blue or black bins; no glass or plastic in the green or black; no dog poop, diapers or plastic bags in green or blue.

There will be a quiz. 

                                           Our trash bins are barely holding together


                                            Wouldn't be too hard for rats to get into these bins 






Monday, October 4, 2021

Confessions Of An Orchid Slayer

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 4, 2021] ©2021

They don’t call me Orchid Death for nothing.

I don’t even want to think of how many gift orchids have met their demise despite my genuinely diligent if fruitless efforts.

A friend recently showed up at my door for dinner bearing a gift orchid.  “Please,” I entreated, “take this plant back.  I have a 100% death rate with orchids.” 

Miss Manners (the Judith Martin etiquette columnist) would have been appalled. One should always accept gifts graciously even if they’ll cost you money to sustain them, have annoying personal needs, and are guaranteed to die a slow agonizing death right in front of you.

I have successfully grown a lot of house plants in my time.  Just not orchids.  What’s so sad is that I really try.  And when you look at the environment orchids live in in supermarket plant sections, is that so much better than my house?  Are they getting the love and attention and pricey orchid fertilizer that I provide?

One of my daughters-in-law is the karmic opposite of me when it comes to orchids.  She insists they’re incredibly easy.  The ones that flourish in her sunny front bay window practically have to be whacked back with a machete. 

But I think that’s the key word right there:  window, as in sunny front window.  We have no houseplant-suitable windows in our dark north-facing home. Just some morning sun in the kids’ old bedrooms that we can’t block access to with plant stands. The contractor who put in the skylights in every room of our little house that the roof slope would allow said he’d never worked in a darker house.  You almost expected to find bears hibernating.

Despite trying to decline my friend’s gift orchid, she was insistent. So I took this as a challenge to try nurturing an orchid one last time. 

I read up on the instructions again: 

The best way to take care of your orchid is to place it near a south- or east-facing window that receives strong, indirect light. [See "not happening," above.]

Water the orchids just before they go dry. It's important to water an orchid based on how much water it uses, rather than a certain number of days. [This plant is already starting to sound high maintenance.]

Mist orchids daily if the humidity level in your home is below 40%. Orchids do best in environments with 40-60% humidity. [Mist? Seriously?]

Fertilize the orchids once per month while they're flowering.  Use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. [So does Miracle Gro count?]

Actually, in my previous attempts to make an orchid flourish under my care, I have actually sprung for the pricey fertilizer formulated just for orchids.  It didn't help. The flowers wilted and fell off one by one...by one...until there was simply nothing but an accusatory stem screaming "You killed me!" They can be very mean about it. 

In the past, if I've had a house plant that just wasn't thriving, I'd give its pathetic final two leaves one last chance by transplanting it in my back yard.  Most of them succumbed. For five years, however, I had a struggling Ficus house plant in my cave-like living room valiantly trying to hold on. I hated to just throw it in the trash (it had tried so hard), so I finally relocated it and its last leaf outside, wishing it luck.  It is now 25 feet tall and uprooting my back gate and destroying my irrigation system.  This $5 Ficus will probably put me back $2,000 in fence and sprinkler repairs.  Like my daughter-in-law’s successful orchid garden: location, location, location.

One of the ways I’ve gotten around a lack of plant platforms in front of sunny windows was to hang plants on macrame plant hangers near these windows.  Macrame was all the rage when we bought our house in 1973 and I actually managed to master, via the preponderance of Sunset Magazine manuals (the YouTube of their time), to create some fairly sophisticated jute and bead versions for my home.  My plants even did pretty well in them.

Ultimately the macrame craze, and the hangers themselves, ran their course.  I had young kids by that time and my knot-tying talents were now channeled into cub scout dens. While I had been quite successful creating intricate plant hangers, I could never master scouting knots, in spite of spending considerable time practicing the rabbit-goes-around-the-tree-and-through-the-hole method. (My rabbits always went around the wrong tree, got tangled up and hung themselves.)  I guess where there’s a will, there’s a knot.

 It took exactly 37 days to kill this orchid.  OK, I didn’t mist.  But I did find its sunniest spot and solicitously attempted to gauge its personal watering needs. I have to conclude that orchids and I were never meant to be. Do not even think of giving me one, ever again. Life is hard enough without plants making you feel bad.

                                                            Orchid, Day 1







                                                            Orchid, Day 37