Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 22, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Troy Is a Treasure Trove by Sister Lin Neil, CSJ

Troy is a treasure trove! It is amazing what people put on the curb for trash. So far I have picked up a lovely, wooden, four-legged stool, a new-looking area rug (this from a trusted neighbor), a fine laundry basket, a door for our shed, a floor lamp and a plastic carry all. Of course, there are other folks looking through the disguised treasures. Then along comes the trash truck, and everything else goes to the landfill in Colonie.

When I lived at St. Pius I used to go monthly to the landfill (aka dump) to do our recycling. The large dump trucks (hence the old-fashioned term, dump) would roll up the hill and disgorge themselves. Mounds of our garbage rolled into Mother Earth. It saddens me that we haven=t found more creative ways to deal with trash. Humankind has been digging holes and inserting junk for thousands of years. The first recorded dump was in Athens in 500 BC. Then, most of that junk was biodegradable. Now we have all kinds of things that take thousands of years to biodegrade and give off nasty chemicals and toxins in the process. For example, paper which accounts for 40 percent of landfills takes decades to degrade. Newspapers of the 60s are still readable today!

There are some real efforts being made to stem the tide, but we Americans generate about 1,620 pounds of trash per person, per year (EPA). We use about fourteen billion trash bags or 425 bags per person, per year. The sheer volume makes this problem a daunting one! There are hundreds of statistics about landfills: the land they eat up, the toxins they emit, the way they pollute ground water. This problem can make us feel totally overwhelmed.

The whole issue may be reduced to two simple pictures that we can juxtapose when we get ready to throw something into the garbage. Can we stop and imagine where the trash will land? (in the belly of Mother Earth) Can we see the heaps of trash? Can we feel toxins seeping into water and escaping into the air?

Secondly, can we stop and pause, look at the item that we=re dumping and ask ourselves, ADoes this piece have another use? Can I save this for The Priory garage sale or a Salvation Army Thrift Shop? Actually, we can back up from that scenario and picture ourselves buying a product. Do I really need the particular product? Is the packaging way out of proportion in volume to the product? Precycling is a great habit. Precycling is choosing products based on their quality and on how much packaging and what type of packaging is used. In 1989 it was estimated that Americans used 190 pounds of plastics per person; about 60 pounds of that plastic was discarded as soon as the package was opened! How many uses will I get out of this product before it will be thrown away? Lately, there has been a rash of disposable cleaning items: Swiffers, furniture-polish sheets, kitchen cleanups, toilet-bowl cleaners; the list seems endless. Can we make other choices?

In solid-waste management there is a hierarchy. At the top of the pyramid is source reduction and reuse, followed by recycling and composting and then incineration and landfilling. It would be a great accomplishment to be at the top of this hierarchy!

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It=s a mantra that we need to say daily. There are some creative places to visit in order to discover other uses for materials:,, and


(September 2005)