Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Wetlands Couch

In the Puget Sound area, we have more opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle than just about anywhere else in our galaxy. Why, then, are appliances, electronics, carpets, all types of furniture, and bags of trash routinely set out on the street or dumped into sensitive areas?

Nothing says, “I’m too lazy to go to the thrift store or use Craigslist” than part of a couch on the edge of a wetlands area. Am I assuming a motive? Yes. But you’d be amazed at how much time your local government agencies spend picking up things that could have been donated or otherwise easily disposed of. On your dime, by the way.

We have made such a mess of the world we were told to take care of… and through our slovenly laziness thoughtlessly make our garbage someone else’s problem. Perhaps Dante’s third circle is not about slush and rain but being forced to pick up all the beer bottles, McDonald’s wrappers, and old stereos thrown into the bushes over one’s lifetime. Backwards, blindfolded, and in a padded sumo suit with ridiculously large floppy clown shoes.


©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Leaves in Street

If I own a house with a yard, I am responsible for what’s inside my property line. If I want my leaves raked, I need to rake them or get someone else to do it or they will remain on my lawn. In like fashion, my responsibility ends where my boundaries end. If my neighbor’s yard has leaves, I can’t be so presumptuous as to climb over the fence that separates our yards and start raking his leaves without permission. If I want to help, I can ask and he can choose to open the gate and let me cross his boundary line. But, it is his choice.

Henry Cloud

This is a quote I often use when discussing boundaries in relationships and in the workplace. Here I’m tying it in to another subject– people who push/rake/shovel/blow their leaves and yard debris into the public right-of-way and streets.

It’s a frequent sight this time of year, landscapers and homeowners with a machine strapped to their backs, swinging the attached hose back and forth as they chase leaves toward the street. Many of these people know that they need to clean up their own messes. Others do not.

Did you know that moving leaves and debris into the right-of-way or street is illegal in many cities? This is because:

1. Leaves and debris, along with everything else that gets onto the roadway, go down storm drains and clog them, which can cause flooding.

2. Technically nothing’s supposed to go down storm drains except surface water. Storm drains usually flow right to creeks, streams, and lakes, and in some places, even to the ocean.

3. Leaves and debris slow and can clog street sweepers.

Obviously doing this can create driving hazards, such as drivers having to avoid or running into piles of leaves, and the leaves and debris making the roadways slick.

Some argue that leaves and such from publicly owned trees that fall onto their property belong back in the ROW or street for the local government agency to pick up. Others argue that material on public sidewalks belongs in the street. Regardless of the rationale, in many places the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining the ROW and sidewalk. Common sense says you don’t cause the problems above by dumping it all into the street.

Here in the Seattle area, I find it odd that we claim to be so environmentally sensitive, yet so many people think it’s quite alright to put the mess on or around their property into the road. Again, it’s bad for storm drains and associated waterways and it means the sweepers go slower or have to avoid an area that would normally get swept altogether.

Some complain that they don’t have enough room in their yard waste bins or have to set out extra bags– then mulch. Compost. I’ve always ran them over with the lawnmower and let the yard soak up their nutrients. Some cities give away free bags and offer composting bins and/or classes. Some have programs, often called Adopt a Drain programs, that encourage citizens to keep the storm drains in their area free of leaves and debris. Some have cards to hand out to “leafers” in English and Spanish explaining why leaves don’t belong in the street. There are other ways.

Most people don’t empty their kitchen and bathroom garbage cans where cars drive and expect other taxpayers to come pick up their refuse. But pushing/blowing your yard waste into the street is the same thing and legally might still be considered littering under your area’s ordinance. Know what’s allowed in your area and please don’t make other taxpayers pick up the tab because you didn’t want to clean up your own mess. Imagine how high your taxes might end up if concierge-level leaf/debris disposal service were extended to every resident.

Thank you for helping keep our storm system clear, for being cognizant of how your actions might increase the risk of flooding at your neighbors’ homes, and for letting the street sweepers do their jobs. Moving stuff from your property and the parts of public assets you’re responsible for maintaining crosses boundaries, sometimes legal ones, and it’s best to take care of our own leaves in our own yards.


Update, 11/23/14: The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has the best post on what to do with your leaves that I’ve ever read. Mention of it originally appeared in a City of Kirkland publication. Their Crossing Paths newsletter is worth subscribing to.


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Haven't seen this clip? Click on the picture. But really, it's not this difficult.

Haven’t seen this Portlandia clip? Click on the picture. But really, it’s not this difficult.

From the City of Kirkland, Washington’s Environmental Services Blog. John MacGillivray is the Solid Waste Programs Lead in the Public Works Department. He is not a known relation of the venerated Jacobite Donald MacGillivray, subject of a rousing Scottish folk song often featured by the Wicked Tinkers. (Here’s to recycling and Johnny MacGillivray!)


Is Recycling a Political Statement?

Our society has done an outstanding job creating and perpetuating stereotypes: over-simplified assumptions and widely held beliefs about how a society, group, or thing might look or behave. So as not to offend, I’ll offer myself and my Scottish heritage up as an example. Contrary to popular belief, all Scottish folk don’t drink Scotch (I prefer tequila), we don’t all own and wear kilts (although I reckon they are probably quite comfortable), and I’ve never eaten haggis (thankfully). And, by the way, I don’t have any desire to do any of the above while wandering around in the middle of nowhere in the Scottish highlands amongst the gorse, herding sheep trying to remember the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne.

In the Northwest, we’ve also done an excellent job molding an image of the stereotypical recycler. To the front and center Pemco and your “Obsessive/Compulsive Recycler” advertisement. Take 30 seconds and check it out. Pemco’s amusing commercial hits the “stereotype grand slam” by implying recyclers in the Northwest are predominantly women; that many of these women spend hours of quality time in their garages devoutly sorting their glass bottles by color as if it were their ticket to an eternal afterlife; and that many of these women suffer from Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, compelled to scrub their soiled aluminum foil before dropping it into their recycle bin. If you look closely, you’ll also notice they even threw in for good measure a late-model Volvo 240D parked in the driveway that, at least in the Northwest, screams liberal. Oh boy. The directors of this commercial might as well as have dressed the actor in Birkenstocks, hemp underwear, a tie-died Grateful Dead t-shirt, and put a flower in her hair to top off the ensemble. Such is the danger inherent with stereotypes.

So, does this mean that by default all political conservatives are going to be lumped in with the stereotypical “right winger” that throws his aluminum pop can in the trash in defiance; thinks that there’s nothing more beautiful than a fresh clear cut on a crisp fall morning; or believes that no body of water is complete without an oil derrick? I certainly hope not, but unfortunately, I work in an industry where the prevailing stereotype has been that conservatives don’t recycle and don’t particularly care for the environment or at least give short shrift to it over other competing concerns when forming their policies and taking action. Fortunately, there’s a growing group of conservatives like myself that believe that the protection of our natural environment and resources should transcend traditional political stereotypes and play a decisive role in the development of policy.

And to put a cherry on top, I even owned and drove a Volvo 240D for many, many years.

It’s our role as professionals in the solid waste and recycling field to relentlessly break down all stereotypes and educate those that might be predisposed to make nonsensical political statements to the detriment of the environment just to be contrarian. Waste reduction and recycling is the one behavior that can and should transcend our political leanings, our religious beliefs, the color of our skin, or anything else We, as stereotypical human beings, can all play a role in reducing our waste, reusing our resources, and recycling.


Go John. Go John. You’re spot on.


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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