But What About the Dog Shit?

California enacted a new recycling law. 

At least I think it did. Not sure. It’s been around for a year, but so far we’re still being told not to follow it. 

Unless we’re out in public. Kinda fitting for a state run by the fake-outrage, put-on-a-show-in-public-while-burning-tires-in-the-back-yard Twitterati.

Even when we’re putting stuff in the bins at the mall, chances are we’re fucking it up.

Bang-up job of saving the world, California!

Then again, “not being followed correctly” and “having little effect” pretty much put it in line with all the recycling laws that came before, because only idiots learn from mistakes.

I was once a true believer on the recycling front. In college, I worked for my campus’s recycling program, spending most of my weekends knee-deep in warm-soda-infused backwash. Do you want to know what shit people put inside their soda cans? Bruised bananas, half-eaten muffins, and, if not actual shit, then at least urine. Because I’m pretty sure Coca-Cola doesn’t come in lemonade colors.

Back then, you could turn recyclables in for money. In fact, the “company” I worked for (really just a branch of Associated Student Body) was based entirely off that premise. Collect the glass and aluminum (plastic wasn’t really in use for drinks back then) and various grades of paper (newspaper and plain paper, but I’ll miss you most of all, continuous-feed printer paper with your fancy tear-away spool holes) that are disposed on campus, turn it in for recycling, and turn a profit.

Granted, that money came from other Californians in the form of a tax, but it wasn’t going anywhere, so we might as well take it. Technically, they don’t call it a tax. It’s a “deposit” that we got back when we returned the item for recycling. And back in the 1980s, many of us did that. But then those blue bins started showing up in public places and curbsides, so many of us opted for ease over getting our nickel back. The California government saw this as a win-win. They get us to recycle and they keep the money. Not that they give a shit if we actually recycle.

If you want to know how little California cares about recycling, try to recycle some wine bottles. The California wine industry, it’s safe to say, can afford some good lobbyists . Let’s not forget that Herr Kommandant Newsom’s favorite ethnic laundromat is located in a certain valley named after an auto parts store. So when the CRV (California Redemption Value) law was coming into place in the mid-1980s, guess who got an exemption?

How exactly does an exemption from the recycling law work, you might ask? It’s simple. We don’t pay the extra nickel for a bottle of wine. Because, you know, five cents on top of seventy dollars is way more likely to impact the sale than five cents added to a dollar soft drink. I wonder if the wine lobbyists were able to keep a straight face when they claimed it would hurt wine sales. Or maybe they just smirked and said, “Want another (free) ten-dollar glass of cab?”

I never realized I wasn’t paying the CRV on bottles of wine until I took some bottles in to be recycled and the center wouldn’t take them. I claimed I’d recycled plenty of wine bottles before. The guy informed me they used to take the wine bottles and then downgrade the payout to “mixed glass” instead of “regular glass.” So for the last decade, by recycling wine bottles, I haven’t even been getting my full “deposit” back for the beer bottles I’m recycling.

“What are we supposed to do with the wine bottles, then?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Throw them in the trash.”

If the primary concern was lessening waste or ensuring more recycled glass, they’d be gobbling up wine bottles. Not sure you’ve looked at a wine bottle recently, but that’s some thick, sturdy-ass glass. Much better than those flimsy beer bottles. I guess Anheuser-Busch should’ve given better blowjobs. Considering California’s annual budget exceeds $75 billion, one assumes they can throw a few extra nickels our way to ensure those thick 750 ml bottles aren’t, shrug, “thrown in the trash.” Especially considering how many CRV’s go into the state coffers without getting repaid. 

But again, the government’s purpose isn’t really to return that money to us. Its purpose is to show us how “important” it is to recycle, particularly on our own dime. Or nickel.

The reason that recycling guy was no longer willing to count my wine bottle as mixed glass isn’t only because the government isn’t shilling out for it. It’s that the companies and countries that used to actually recycle our shit aren’t willing to anymore. It’s not profitable for anyone. Even China. 

That’s where most of our recyclables went before. Did you know we were supposed to thoroughly rinse our plastic before putting it in the bin? Neither did I, because they never told us to. That’s because the Chinese washed them for us, with labor that was cheaper than the water and soap we would have used. Unfortunately, China’s labor ain’t quite as cheap anymore. The price they get for selling the recycled plastic back to us isn’t worth the labor cost anymore. 

Cans are still worth the cost, because soda companies are still paying. I assume glass is still being recycled, as long as it isn’t wine bottles. Plastic’s the only one that’s cheaper to produce from scratch. Oh, and paper, but we stopped pretending we recycle paper ages ago. Oddly enough, it happened when people stopped buying newspapers, even though newspapers were the worst grade of paper. I work at a school that consumes thousands of sheets of pristine printer paper a day, and there isn’t a spot for recycling. 

Back to plastic, though, it turns out it might actually be worse for the environment to recycle plastic than to produce it from scratch. I’ve heard conflicting reports on this, but they come from both sides of the political news aisle. There was an NPR report claiming that most cities are throwing the plastic you diligently sorted back in with the garbage. The laws only require that it gets separated, not that it actually gets recycled. 

Maybe that’s what they were doing with wine bottles all those years.

By the way, NPR seemed kinda fine with plastic not being recycled. I only believe news media when they’re criticizing their own side. Aside from the cost and environmental damage caused by recycling, a fair amount of the shit we put on open-air boats to China blow off into the ocean. According to their report, that Great Pacific Garbage Heap isn’t coming from stuff us heathens are randomly discarding but the stuff we’re trying to do the right thing with.

But here we go again, with a brand spanking new composting law here in California. 

There were all sorts of stories a year ago that we needed to start separating the food from the rest of our trash. Followed by other stories saying, “Whoa, not YET!” Turns out none of the infrastructure was in place. Not that that’s stopped the state of California from implementing changes before. In a decade or so, we won’t be able to buy gasoline cars anymore, despite there being no plans to add more charging stations. Nor consultation with car manufacturers to see if they can supply enough fully electric vehicles. I don’t even think hybrids will be allowed.

And don’t get me started on the impending disappearance of bacon. Then again, that wasn’t the government, that was the damn voters who passed a “take your pigs to the gym” ballot proposition.

I’m all for composting. We put our coffee grounds, as well as random egg shells and apple cores, in a little bin, then use it to fertilize our garden. At first I assumed that was the purpose of this law. Maybe the state of California wants to go into the fertilizing business to make a little extra money they won’t return to us. Then they’ll ban private fertilizer companies because they’re shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that fertilizer can be used in explosives. Or else maybe they’re worried kids will eat fertilizer.

Seems to be their plan for solar, where they encouraged us all to put solar on our homes, but now they’re worried that we’re producing too much solar. It’s hurting the old-fashioned energy companies that donate to politicians. So now they’re going to make us pay extra for the solar panels we already installed. Plus they’re not going to let us use our excess solar to lower our electricity costs anymore. That’s right, the progressive promised land of California, where Democrats have a super-majority at every level of government, is trying to steer us away from renewable energy.

Just like with the composting, it has nothing to do with fertilizer. Recycling is never about recycling. It’s about separation. If organic matter is mixed with regular trash, it releases methane. But if it’s in a separate pile, it… doesn’t? Despite the fact that every compost pile ever created smells like shit. 

But methane is bad for the environment. Not sure if it’s worse for the environment than thousands of cars idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic because California refuses to build or expand public transit. Why would they provide us with busses and trains when they can just shame us for not taking the nonexistent busses and trains? They can’t extend BART into San Jose because of “environmental studies.” 

Like studying why wine bottles can’t be recycled. 

Can’t wait till the cities just put our organic waste back in with the regular trash. Now that I think of it, what goes into the trash can after all the food is taken out?

We haven’t been given any new bins for this new composting experiment. Many municipalities already have greenwaste cans, so in late 2021, we all assumed we’d just throw the coffee grounds in with the greenwaste. That’s when we got the “No, no, no, not there! Not yet!” message. 

Allegedly the landfills that take the greenwaste can’t handle separating it from the composting. Heck, we get in trouble if dog shit gets in with our leaves. Maybe in the future we’ll be forced to recycle our animal feces, too. Then they’ll throw it all together at the landfill.

A year later, there’s been no update on how and where to separate our composting. Despite the fact that the law was passed in 2018. And people think I’m crazy for assuming California won’t be ready for all electric cars a decade from now. 

Assuming it stays with greenwaste, there might be additional problems. Our greenwaste truck only comes around biweekly instead of weekly. Will that change if we have to throw all of our food in there? Shit, swap it with the regular garbage truck, cause I imagine my regular trash can won’t be filling up quite as regularly without food in it. What else is there to throw away? To-go containers and wine bottles.

Punishments for not separating our organics don’t begin until 2024. But if my math is correct, we’re over halfway since the law was implemented, and 5/6 of the way since it was passed, toward penalties, and haven’t heard shit yet. Maybe California’s grand plan is to never tell us how to do it. That way, they can fine us all for violating it. 

Because, let’s face it, we’re all going to be fined. I like to think of myself as relatively knowledgeable about current trends, rules, and regulations relating to environmental policy, but I sure as shit can’t tell you every item that’s compostable. 

For instance, when I put coffee grounds in my garden, I don’t include the filter. My coffee filter still has a smattering of coffee grounds on it when I throw it in the trash. I don’t know if it’s compostable or not. It’s paper, which means it’s organic. But so is greenwaste. 

Let’s say I’m eating a juicy steak. I know the uneaten portions go into the compost, but what about the bones? When making fertilizer out of it, we would toss those because they don’t break down fast enough, but I’m assuming they still produce methane. 

What about stuff like barbecue sauce and mustard and ketchup? I  assume they’re counted as food, but if I’m tossing half a head of romaine lettuce, that’s got to be greenwaste, right? 

I’ll just throw sliced “American” “cheese” in with the plastic. Let China figure it out what it’s made of.

And dammit, what am I supposed to do with my dog shit? I don’t think there’s a correct answer. Might as well flush it down the toilet.

Restaurants and food courts don’t seem to be helping much, either. It seems like any time I’m somewhere that separates out composting, the stuff they put on the picture is stuff I wouldn’t think to put in there. Napkins and wrappers, which they claim are cellophane, which I thought was the same as plastic, but what the hell do I know? In truth, one time I bought gizzard on a stick in New Orleans and, yeah, by the time I delivered it to an unsuspecting friend a half-hour later, the grease had damn near dissolved the flimsy bag-like cover. 

But now I’m going to be fined for putting some food wrappers in the garbage, or fined for putting other food wrappers in the not-garbage. 

Seriously, California, can I just send you a damn check to leave me alone? 

Maybe we ought to change our state motto. No longer are we the state of “Eureka, I have found it!” Unless what we’re looking for is wildfires and unaffordable housing.

Besides, nobody comes here for gold anymore. They come to make it in Hollywood.

Here ya go: “California: Act Like You Care.”

And anybody else who is trying to get recycling right can borrow it. We’ll even wrap it in plastic for ya.