City fighting waste with waste, #winning

Note: This column appears in the 4/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/29 issue of the Peoria Times

Recently, the City of Glendale expanded its recycling program. Unfortunately, this expansion did not include plastic grocery bags, which cannot be recycled because, according to Debbie Coy, Glendale Recycling Coordinator, they “gum up the machinery.” Not cool, bags.

My wife and I try to do our part in the ongoing fight against plastic bags. For one thing, we have several reusable shopping bags. Granted, we almost always forget to bring them to the store, but the point is—we have them. We also reuse the plastic bags we acquire as garbage bags in our tiny garbage can. Because these bags often have holes in them, I typically go through a roll of paper towels cleaning up the coffee grinds and miscellaneous liquids the bags leak when I go to dispose of them. Such is the nature of saving nature.

Unfortunately, cities like Glendale and Peoria cannot rely solely upon the commitment of environmentally conscious, vegetarian, hippie citizens such as my wife and I. And every time I see a plastic Safeway bag stuck to a cactus, my heart aches. Luckily, West Valley cities like Glendale are actively joining the fight, and not just with an awareness walk.

According to the Arizona Republic, Glendale is reusing plastic bags at city parks. For dog poop.

Now, I know what you’re saying: What about those fancy poop bags? Local citizen Heather Gabaldon, for one, was quoted as saying, “You don’t need the fancy poop bags.” I think many of us would agree with Heather, especially the City of Glendale, which “typically spent $2,000 annually for dog waste bags.”

Taxpayers can rest assured that in the future, a much smaller fraction of our tax dollars will be spent on fancy dog waste bags. And while $2,000 may seem like a lot of money, bags ain’t free, except at the grocery store, which is why this idea is so genius. Who better than our local grocer to foot the bill for our dog waste cleanup efforts?

Some have argued, why not eliminate plastic bags altogether or at least purchase machinery that doesn’t “gum up” so easily? Well, San Francisco is the only city that has successfully banned plastic bags in grocery stores, but other cities that have attempted to do so have met resistance. The issue of plastic bags does not, unfortunately, transcend politics, and Republicans and Democrats alike fear we may regress as a society to the point where we are carrying individual items of stores by hand and cleaning up dog poop with shovels like they did in the 1940s.

According to Coy, plastic bags take about 1,000 years to break down. With the help of this program, the bags will still take 1,000 years to break down in landfills, but they will have poop in them. So … yeah. Plus, dog waste itself is biodegradable and a natural fertilizer, and we don’t want that messing up the planet.

Of course, I kid. This is a great idea. In fact, I reuse plastic grocery bags for my own dog’s waste. Well-versed in this process, I should reiterate my earlier point—watch out for holes. (Those fancy poop bags are so expensive because they’re built much sturdier.) If you get any on your hands, I recommend an hour-long, hot shower, which always feels good after a long day of saving the planet.

Ooh, la, la ... so fancy! But, are you sure that won't gum up my toilet?