Reporter's Notebook

Trash Talk

If you want the world to beat a path to your doorway, you’re told to invent a better mouse trap. And that’s sort of what’s happening with Nicole Howell, a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute for Design in New York City.

She has invented an updated – wait for this – trash can. She calls her invention “Toss with Care.”

How to describe it? Well, it’s a means of dividing a regulation round garbage can into three wedges. One wedge contains trash; another, recyclables, and a third, compostables. Each segment has a separate removable bag that canbe reused, or in the case of compostables, ideally would itself be compostable.

The design is simple, yet practical. The idea of having three containers in one makes a heap of sense. It saves cities and establishments from having to provide three separate cans. It conserves on walkway, hallway or whatever space.

Furthermore, the segmented containers force people to think twice about what they regard as trash and what they know can be turned into valuable compost. Used properly, the invention will help the environment, both through targeting waste and helping people acquire savvy in sorting.

When people who care about the environment discuss how to make recycling more efficient, they talk about the importance of judicious separation. If it is done easily and efficiently, it will reduce the amount of time required to process waste and make that waste more reusable.

Nicole thinks that the “excess food” container, which she hopes will contain some edible food, will serve to help people who must occasionally rely on diving into dumpsters. However, that would not be the reason for employing such containers. Obviously, there could not be assurance that the excess would be potable. But, at the very least, foodstuffs would not be mixed in with recyclables and trash.

What’s the likelihood that we’re going to see any of these “Toss with Care” receptacles in Seattle? Can’t say for sure. For one thing, it matters whether our solid waste contractors can easily access the tri-part containers for pick-up. That’s something that’s being assessed as we speak.

The point is that we should never close the door on possible improvements to the way we handle solid waste. Washingtonians now recycle more than they throw away (statistics show the state at 50.7 percent). Seattle, meanwhile, recycles about 57 percent. While that’s a vast improvement over past years, there’s still ample room for doing far better.

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