Shel Silverstein inspires us to make less holiday trash | KUOW News and Information

Shel Silverstein inspires us to make less holiday trash

Dec 7, 2017

This holiday season, let's all try to avoid being like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.

Remember her? The famed profligate from the Shel Silverstein poem who refused to take the garbage out? Let us refresh your memory.

“Brown bananas, rotten peas,

“Chunks of sour cottage cheese.

“It filled the can, it covered the floor,

“It cracked the window and blocked the door …”

Things didn’t end well for Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout — her garbage ended up reaching “from New York to the Golden Gate,” after all. But there’s another very good reason not to be like her this holiday season: Nearly everything piling up in Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s garbage bin should have been composted.

That’s according to Kevin Kelly, manager of the Recology Cleanscapes recycling facility in Georgetown. Kelly sat down with Bill Radke to top off his advice from his earlier this year — and to talk about how we tend to be extra wasteful during the holiday season.

And of course, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout came up.

“We have come a long way from this great Shel Silverstein poem,” Kelly said. “Everything that was just listed there in that segment can be composted.”

In fact, the only thing in the poem that’s not compostable is “cellophane from green baloney.” (Health and safety note: If your baloney is green, deposit in your compost bin immediately.)

This is all important to bear in mind right now, because Americans generate 25 percent more garbage than usual between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday aftermath is also waste-intensive; Kelly said his recycling facility starts looking pretty festive around December 26.

“It looks like Christmas,” he said. “That’s when we start seeing all the wrapping paper.”

But Kelly said it’s better to open packages carefully and reuse paper. And bows and ribbons should never end up in the recycling bin.

“Bows and ribbons are not recyclable,” Kelly said. “And they should be reused, quite frankly.”

He encourages gift-givers to consider using repurposed wrapping materials  — old road maps or children’s artwork are a few choices. And gift bags can easily be reused year after year.

“We also could just give each other less stuff,” Radke said.

“Giving someone the gift of an experience actually can be more enjoyable,” Kelly agreed.

But what about those Christmas trees? Trees are compostable — just like most of the odds and ends in Ms. Stout’s bin — and they should be left out with your compost bin to be picked up (at no extra charge).

Kelly said the the best way to have a green holiday season is to curb your consumption. Even if you’re putting your festive table scraps in the compost bin, that’s still wasted food.

“That’s still resources that are not being used the way they were intended,” Kelly said.

Something for Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout to think about the next time her dad asks her to take out the garbage … err, compost. (Although, not everyone is convinced she’d be any better about composting.)

“She won’t take the garbage out, she’s probably not going to go out to the the composting bin either,” Radke said. “She needs a change of heart in general.”

If you’re uncertain of what’s recyclable or compostable, look it up with these tools from Seattle or King County.

Produced for the web by Amy Rolph.