The compost bin arrived. It just appeared in the driveway, a small, cute version of the trash cans. “Hi! I’m yours!” it seemed to say. “Fill me with rotting things.” We also got a package from the city with a FAQ about composting. Let me summarize for those who threw it away without opening it because they have no intention of composting. It’s easy! Let’s set your mind at rest right now.
Question No. 1: What happens to my organics? Before I saw this I never thought of elderly, slimy lettuce as “my organics.” I never really thought I had organics at all. Apparently I’m loaded with them. I’ve got organics coming out of my ears. Literally: You can compost Q-tips, but only if the stem is paper; if it’s plastic, use a razor to remove the cotton and dispose of the stem by covering it with suet so a bird will take it and use it for its nest.
Anyway, what happens to the food scraps and senior-aged produce? The composted compost will be “put to good use in landscaping and road construction projects.”
This is not the most compelling argument. It’s not as if MnDOT says, “Well, we’d love to fix the 35W/94 commons, but people keep putting leftover pasta down the disposal.” I thought composting made dirt, or some dirt-related substance, but I guess it generates buckets of steaming asphalt. When you learn that your coffee grounds are used for landscaping, it’s like finding out that 95 percent of recycled newspapers end up as brochures urging you to recycle newspapers.
Question No. 2: Will it smell? I think we can agree that there is no other city initiative that feels compelled to answer this question. The answer is: “Not any more than your garbage smells.” Which isn’t heartening. When I drag the bin to the curb on a hot August night and wonder if it’s starting to rain, it actually will be the salivation of a flock of carrion birds overhead. Can’t open the lid without some buzzard-punching.
Question No. 3: Why can’t pet waste be included? BECAUSE IT IS PET WASTE. Seriously, people — it is full of bacteria and must be put in the regular garbage and burned and then the entire building is flooded with Purell and everyone takes a bleach shower. You want to put that stuff in a bin in the garage? In the summer?
Question No. 4: What can I compost? Basically, anything that used to be alive, like goldfish, or something that was almost alive, like eggs. Wood used to be alive, so you can compost an old chair or violin. You cannot compost a tree trunk because of its girth, but if you turn it into toothpicks, you can get rid of the tree one piece at a time. (Estimated duration for this method: 14 years.)
You cannot compost gum, because it is well known that it doesn’t break down for seven years. But you can compost hair. I assume this includes whiskers, which are just hard hair. It is now your civic duty to save your whiskers in a plastic container for road construction.
By the way, if you’ve been saving nail clippings for years, thinking “these will come in handy someday,” rejoice. They’re eligible for collection.
What if you don’t want to compost? When the collectors say, “Where’s your organics?” just take off your shoes and socks, get out a clipper and say, “Angle that bin my way, see if I can hit it.”