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Special package: The state of our trash

You know the cool yogurt shop spoons -- the ones that say "biodegradable"? Can they go in the blue bin for recycling? Or the green bin to be composted with yard waste? Or do they go in the black bin with non-recyclable trash, your conscience eased by the assumption that this plastic will break down faster in the landfill? (And does it, really?)

Pose these questions to enough intelligent, responsible, well-intentioned adults, and you're likely to get different answers. Which is why the print edition of the Los Angeles Times Home section this week is all about trash: the new wrinkles in recycling and future efforts to reduce the amount of waste we create in the first place.

Trash2 We've got:

Times writer Mary MacVean's lead story on how new materials and technology not only promise long-term benefits but also create short-term consumer confusion.

Times writer Susan Carpenter's new column, the Garbage Maven, which kicks off with a somewhat obsessive dissection of her own trash for a month.

A recycling timeline for L.A. (Do you remember the yellow crates?)

Finally, writer Alexandria Abramian-Mott asks the question: Is my kid a hoarder? Experts weigh in on children's predilection to collect, and what to do when they can't seem to part with those mountains of rocks, feathers, pamphlets and other kid junk.

In the weeks to come, stay tuned for a recurring feature in which we ask and answer: Can I recycle ... a greasy pizza box? A spaghetti sauce jar lid? A kid's juice box? Fast-food drinking straws? For those and other mysteries of the blue bin, bookmark the blog and check back as we make 2011 a very trashy year.

-- Craig Nakano

Illustration credit: Steven Sedam / For The Times

Comments () | Archives (4)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Since I've moved to Los Angeles I've discovered that most people don't care about recycling and don't pay attention. I live in an apartment complex. Remember us, those of you who live in detached single family houses with yards?

Apartment complex tenants will put garbage and recyclables in the green waste bin simply because that's the bin they encounter first. I can't imagine them ever composting correctly. No one would do it right and every place would end up smelling to high heaven and over-run with wildlife (cockroaches, rats, raccoons, etc.).

I've been recycling my entire long (now) adult life and it's easy, second nature. Even with the changing rules it's just not that hard...if you want to do it.

I'm an avid recycler - but I have a feeling I might be putting in too many things that may not belong in there out of my desire to recycle everything! The bins in LA have also created a sub-culture of the "bin pickers" - people who roam around before trash day collecting items to haul off to the recycling plant to cash in. I don't mind them except when they rattle around in there at the butt crack of dawn.

Composting is so easy and it really makes you aware of how much food waste ends up in the garbage. Eat less! Consume less! Live longer!

There's a bunch of stuff that I wonder about recycling, that I'd love to hear from you guys. Such as: Hard plastic containers that have paper stickers on them, small bits of plastic (like the pull from a milk jug), candy bar wrappers. Thanks for the feature, I look forward to it.

This is a great idea for a column.
I'd like to know if it's more environmentally responsible to rinse out empty containers of hummus, ketchup, jelly etc and recycle them, or to save the water and put them in the trash.
Judgment call probably but can you investigate?


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