Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Tomorrow I will attend a meeting with Jim Yocom of Instructional Media Services on campus at IUSB. We are going to create a rough filming schedule for the Conserve Plastic Bags documentary. Jim is the man with the technological experience that will help to get this film completed. I have done some practice shooting, but only together can Jim, Michelle and I make this movie! I am so proud that the potential of this project has grown so much, even though it is VERY SCARY how quickly it has grown! With our plan in place, Jim, Michelle and I will hopefully begin filming in a few weeks.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
The fact that landfills are put in poor communities is disturbing. These folks already have their own problems, obviously. And then we put a landfill in their neighborhood; Great lets give them health problems! Oh wait! These people probably cannot afford health care or insurance. So that's a pretty big set back huh? But no, that's not all of their magnificent benefits. Lets also lower their property value. As if it wasn't hard enough to build a positive community in a lower-income area already, we will also throw our landfill in! Great, who is going to want to invest money into an area that has chronic health problems , stinks, and property value is down. And oh, hopefully all of these low- income folks can afford bottled water for drinking and their needs, because soon their ground water will be contaminated.
Personally I see this as a huge problem spiraling downward. I understand these towns may be payed money to accept the landfills. However this is only a short term solution obviously, if that! I hope as I continue my reading in Garbage Land and go through this experience in stats class that this will enlighten this issue.
If you have any interest in landfill leaks I suggesting searching around for information on them, it is very scary and shocking the information you find.
www.swmd.org (website for St. Joseph County waste management) has a lot of interesting statistics on the percentage of materials recycled and stuff like that. For example, in St. Joseph County, 46.5% of the materials recycled are newspapers.
The other website is for IU Northwest and had some interesting info on landfills. http://www.iun.edu/~environw/landfills.html
I never thought about much about landfills, but I find the paragraph on health effects particularly disturbing.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Given these numbers, that means that one truckload carries over 2 million bags in a shipment. WHAT?!? What does two million plastic bags look like? Well, wonder no more: Jeff gave me a picture of him standing on top of 2 million plastic bags. So click here to see the monstrosity for yourself!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
To address my skepticism, I called Jeff Ashby, Director of Rocky Mountain Recycling, for more information. I'm glad I did: Jeff works with Wal-Mart at a national level, so he was able to tell me where our bags go. Well, it's not Bentonville, AK, and it's not Salt Lake City, UT (thank goodness). Our bags get shipped to a facility in Ohio. And this is where companies like Trex and AERT purchase the bags for lumber manufacturing. Bags not sold to these companies are transported to Morristown, TN, to a company called Next Life Recycling. Next Life takes the bags and melts them down to create resin (basically, they're breaking down the plastic so that they can re-use the material to make other products).
So, to be clear, our bags don't go to Salt Lake City, UT (my mistake). But my goodness, the bags still go on quite a journey!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Like many others I have a collection of plastic bags stashed away. I usually use them for small trash bags, or what ever else comes up. My mother also contributed a bunch. So I think I have a good jump start on collecting. I do recycle some things like pop cans, tin cans, plastic jugs, and glass jars but as I started to read garbage land I realized there’s a whole lot more I could be doing. When it comes to waste, I guess my biggest issue is with how much paper and paper products this country wastes and how many trees are killed before they are allowed to replenish .
Friday, January 19, 2007
At this point, the vast majority of bags are sold to two domestic companies. In particular, Trex purchases these grocery bags to make composite lumber for decking and benches. Once "recycled" into these products, they are sold to Home-Depot and Lowes for the retail market. The rest of the plastic bags are recycled into new grocery bags, heavy-duty garbage bags, black plastic tarps for young plants, straw for planter beds, storage bins, tool boxes, and molded patio furniture. And a small portion of our bags goes to China for manufacturing.
Of course, this information raises more questions: How many pounds of plastic bags are packed into a semi-truck? How much gas does it take for a semi to travel to Salt Lake City? What is the cost of purchasing these bags from Rocky Mountain Recycling? Does the value of plastic bags change based on fluctuating oil prices? By asking these questions, two underlying issues now emerge: business and economics. But for now, let's focus on this moment. Our plastic bags go to Salt Lake City, Utah!!
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
In the introduction, Ms. Royte explores the question of what someone would learn about her from her trash. She is correct in that much can be gleaned about a person from his or her trash. Garbage can tell the narrative of someone’s life, especially in cases where people can no longer speak for themselves.
I was formerly employed by REAL Services where I worked with elderly people. Through the Guardianship Program, REAL Services would become the Guardian for elderly individuals who were mentally incapacitated. This usually involved placing individuals in long-term care facilities if they were still living independently. We worked with individuals with dementia who usually did not have family or friends involved in their care. There was often very little background information on a person. Guardianship staff would actually have to comb through their possessions looking for documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, life insurance policies, bank account information, etc. Through this program, I had many memorable experiences dealing with garbage that simultaneously triggered feelings of disgust, sadness, amusement, and inspiration.
It was interesting to not only piece together somebody’s life story, but to also find evidence of that person’s mental decline over a period of several years. For example, people who feel as if they are losing their minds will write notes to themselves. We would find little pieces of paper with notes such as “I took the purple pill this morning” and “gun under the bed”. You never knew what you might find amongst the seemingly mundane bits of trash such as fast food napkins, dirty Kleenex, and old receipts. Combing carefully through mountains of stuff, I would find plastic bags within plastic bags, each containing some trash. After tearing my way through several plastic bags, I might stumble across a $20 dollar bill amongst the litter. We would find that there was always a pattern to the behavior so that if we found cash in one plastic bag, it was likely that we would find several more just like it.
There was one lady who had been a traveling gospel singer and an expert seamstress in her younger years. She had beautiful clothes and a closet full of matching hats, gloves, and shoes. Seeing a person in the glory of their younger years gives you a connection to that person as the unique individual that he or she still is, despite the fact that the person can no longer speak coherently.
There was one house that was so dirty it had been condemned by the health department, but the home was a treasure trove of the last 50 plus years of the woman’s life. Regardless of the circumstances that brought her to our agency, this woman had once had a “normal” life. She had been married, raised children, and managed a household. She had been beautiful in her younger years and had been an avid fan of music and theatre. I was fascinated by the history contained in the home. There were old records and magazines, ticket stubs, vacation photos, children’s toys, and greeting cards. Even an old hat box from Robertson’s gave me an idea of who she had been and what had been important to her.
It was not uncommon to find that these elderly people seemed to never throw anything away. One can theorize about the psychological significance that holding onto certain possessions had for that person, but it also reminds the viewer that these people lived in a time period where they weren’t massive consumers. They lived during a time where people bought fewer things and tried to keep the things that they had. They made the most of what they had and didn’t automatically throw things away.
Of course, dealing with this much trash can be a huge obstacle. The size of the dumpster that the agency had to rent for the aforementioned home appeared to be as large as the house itself, as if one could just drop the house in the dumpster and obliterate the memories of her life.
These experiences made trash life-altering for me. Going through someone else’s trash is a voyeuristic experience and it is impossible to do so without reflecting on one’s own life. I have come to the realization that how we manage our possessions, especially towards the end of life, gives us choice, power, and dignity. Reading Ms. Royte’s book reminds me that the decision to be conscientious of our trash must start today.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I recently enjoyed a stroll through Chicago. I remember seeing a row of trees "decorated" w/ 10 or so decomposing plastic shopping bags nestled among the branches. It was like sad art. The topic resonated w/ me immediatly.
In closing, I am excited to learn statistics in a way that can be applied in a concrete and helpful manner.
These are great questions to ask. It shows that you have been reading the book and taking this topic seriously.
Here's my position in response to these questions: I’d like you to make some of these decisions for yourself. It would be very impressive if you took your own initiative and recorded the weight of your trash. It would certainly illustrate how much garbage you are consuming on an individual level, AND it will provide you with data you could use for statistical purposes. Most important, recording the weight of your trash may establish a greater personal connection with this topic. I’m not, however, going to make this a "requirement" as part of the reading discussion questions. In addition, it's perfectly reasonable to select one or two reading discussion questions to answer, just as long as you demonstrate that you've read the material and thought about how the topic relates to you. And you're always welcome to share your thoughts about the reading on the blog. Posting your comments on the blog is a great place for us to engage in an informal discussion about the reading or anything else you want to say about the project.
As I told the student who asked me those questions, the reading exercises are less about me telling you what to do, and more about you creating an experience for yourself. My goal is to offer you some guidelines and options that fit within the course expectations. Ultimately, however, you have the control to decide how you’d like to master those goals. I hope this gives you enough freedom to explore the topic in such a way that you create a meaningful experience for yourself. Because I think this topic is broad enough for us to make several personal connections, I don’t think it’s my place to tell you *how* to make a particular connection. My goal is to simply offer you some ways to make those connections for yourself.
Admittedly, this may be an approach you're not used to, which is understandable. Just remember that we're embarking on a journey that most people have not taken: For goodness sake, we're learning about garbage, plastic bags, and statistics! :0)
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
Also check-out other family math activities offered by Riverbend Math Community Center for more service-learning opportunities!
I have been an avid recycler for many years and over the past year have become even more fanatical about recycling. When I pull my trash out to the curb, I try to have more in my recycling bin than I do my trash can. Despite my efforts, Dr. Verges has made me aware that only a small percentage of what I put in my recycling bin actually gets recycled, particularily with respect to plastic. This first week of class alone has made me aware of some of the issues surrounding plastic bags; such as the dangers they impose on our wildlife.
Community awareness is critical for educating individuals (myself including) on the importance of taking ownership of these issues. It takes all of us, collectively, to come together and make it our responsibility to reduce waste. Together, we can make a difference!
Thank you Dr. Verges for making this part of your course this semester and for your dedication to improving our environment.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I am especially excited about the service part of this project. I enjoy planning and putting on celebrations and events, but for me the real joy of this project is being able to volunteer at the Logan's Center and work with the handicap to turn the plastic bags into something beautiful. This is the part of the project that intrigues me and the part that I feel is truly in line with my career goals and what I eventually want to do.
Although statistics still makes me nervous (because I want to do well!), I am no longer petrified of the work I will have to do and I am excited t be a part of this class. Thank you for this great opportunity, I'm excited to dive in and get started!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Being a very pragmatic person, I love it when professors present practical ways to apply learnings to everyday life. This project also provides opportunity for community outreach, education, and improvement; I like it.
And...what a great way to associate new learnings! Soon new statistical terminology, formulas, and values will pop into my mind every time I see a plastic bag; an excellent recall strategy for learning one of the most highly anticipated classes of my entire college experience :)
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Not a pretty picture!
Monday, January 08, 2007
To add to my nerves, we also filmed the first day of class for the documentary. Jim Yocom, Director of Instructional Media Services, had two cameras to record my lecture and my students' reactions to the project. Sure, no problem--this sort of thing happens everyday in the classroom, right?!? :0)
In short, I think today's lecture went according to plan. My students definitely responded to the project plans for this semester! And I think we have a great group of students, so I'm confident this will be an incredible learning experience for everyone (myself included). But instead of wondering what my students' thoughts are about this project, I want to hear from them directly.
So to my stats students: Please share your thoughts. What do you think about this project?