Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Do I have a Condition or Do I Waste Away?

I hate waste. I hate wasting. And, most of all, I hate wastefulness. Is it just me?

When I walk in nature (or in town) and I see garbage lingering in the woods or along the curbs, I am appalled. What is so hard about throwing trash in a provided bin – even if it is placed a few steps away – or carrying it back out of a park or forest and dispose of it at home? Why does anyone have the need to throw empty cans, wrappers or plastic bottles through open car windows, while any gas station (or your own house) has a trash can? Do these ignorant soilers really prefer to drive or walk in a littered environment instead of a pristine one? Do they not care that their neighbors or fellow citizens have to roam amongst trash?

Some people do not care where they dump trash... This photo was taken near the Western Portal of the Hoosac Tunnel

Some people do not care where they dump trash… This photo was taken near the Western Portal of the Hoosac Tunnel

When I walk in the grocery store, many items are double wrapped or packed in non-degradable materials. At the check-out counter, cashiers or (most) customers don’t even blink when packing piles of merchandise into piles of plastic bags. When they unpack their new purchases at home, they just throw all that plastic into the bin. Congratulations to the people who reuse these bags as trash bags or dog poop pick-up bags (which we always did in the past and now we sometimes even ask for a couple of plastic bags to reuse in our bathroom bins). Congratulations to supermarkets offering customers the option of paper bags to carry their groceries back home. And, the biggest congratulation to shoppers who bring their own (reusable) bags. Who does not know yet that there is more than enough garbage in the world, or that plastic bags kill many animals in the oceans every day? In Belgium, supermarkets have no plastic (or paper) bags at all. You bring your own, or you grab a cardboard box from a therefore reserved area in the store.

When I observe some Americans in their own home, recycling seems to cause them a lot of grief. Or, they just don’t think about it. Having been very adamant about recycling forever, this really troubles me. Being a Western European where recycling has been a part of daily life for a long time (in Belgium recycling has been mandatory for over two decades) does not help, I’m sure. When garbage is picked up at your doorstep (or even when you have to drive to a nearby collection center) once or twice every two weeks, isn’t it worth your while to reduce general waste, that is already graciously offered to Mother Nature in return for all she does to help us survive? Is recycling too time-consuming? Too much effort? Too hard to figure out what goes where? What is the excuse here?

Of course I realize that creating trash is inevitable. But, why is it that while we were living on our sailboat for eight years, we only filled one small grocery store bag a week with trash and now we create twice that amount? We are still “only” producing one “normal size” trash bag every two weeks, because we deposit compostable items in the yard, collect paper and cardboard separately, and recycle other items in a bag that fills quicker than the general waste bag. The main reason we sometimes have to remove the bag out of the kitchen half-full is its smell.  I’m just trying to prove the point that recycling truly reduces the amount of general waste by half or more. So, why not do this?

There is the wastefulness with water and electricity in a mainstream household. People have become so used to what appears to be an unlimited amount of resources, that they don’t even notice (or care) that they left the lights on unnecessary, created freezing temperatures with the AC or left the fridge door open for ages. Why do some people let the water run while brushing their teeth or leave a tap running for no reason at all? Is it ignorance or laziness? How does the sound of needlessly running water not make them cringe? Don’t get me started on this… but do let me know if I’m crazy.

And then, there is food waste. When I was a child refusing to finish my meal, my parents would show or remind my brother and me of images seen on the TV news. They portrayed skeletal, starving children in Africa. “Don’t you realize you are better off than those poor children? Now, eat!” I can’t say it did the trick, but when I see so many people at restaurants or in home settings throwing away food these days, I do think three things: What a waste of vegetables (healthy stuff!) and meat (now this animal really died for no reason). What a waste of money. What a shame so many people have to starve without even the most basic nutrition while here, so much is thrown out without further ado. When my mind wanders off in that direction, I find it disgusting how spoiled we are in the Western world and don’t even realize it, while a major part of the earth’s population is hungry and poor. And we dare to complain about a bad hair day, our favorite food not being available in the store or not being able to “afford” the latest gadget or fad. Really? I am starting to blame the world’s problems, people’s hunger for power, their need to be violent and the increasing tendency to be disrespectful, inconsiderate and self-righteous on the fact that we are all too spoiled and maybe even too bored. What else could it be, when you realize how well off we are, compared to so many other cultures?

But, I am getting off topic here. On a more personal level, I cannot throw out any food. This is sometimes not healthy either. Quite literally. I would only toss expired milk when I have tasted its sourness (hoping I don’t have to puke after my diagnosis). I don’t mind eating food that is out of date, but smells fine. And I just cut around the unattractive or discolored parts of vegetables, before I use them. While I am very frugal, it is not so much the cost of the items than the feeling of wasting them that bugs me.

When food items have become inedible or when Mark forces me to throw out unrecognizable forms of previously admired provisions, I oblige and begrudgingly toss the items, muttering “what a waste”. But, Mark is not here right now. So, I had some funny looking cheese for lunch. It had been lingering in the fridge for quite some time, therefore I cut off the blue spots. I am not a big fan of Provolone, which I had bought for our guests. Once I noticed the mold, the other day, I knew I had to eat it now or never (before Mark would notice). Well, the remaining yellow parts of the Provolone on my sandwich tasted like blue cheese, and if there is one cheese I dislike even more than Provolone, it is blue cheese! Maybe that’s where I should draw the line? Only waste, when the taste of a product is corrupted… I think that might be the sweet (or sour) spot for me.

Do you think I have a condition/disease? If so, is there a name for it?

Feel free to provide me with answers to the questions in my blog. While I am appalled by the behavior of some people (I didn’t mean to generalize too much, by the way), I am very curious to find out what goes through people’s minds – if anything – when they waste or litter…




  1. I hate wastefulness too! We bring bags to the grocery store, we compost, we recycle, we try not to buy things with too much packaging, and, certainly (here in SoCal), we don’t waste water. I can’t say that I get an “A” for food waste, though. You’d think that with just the two of us, we could manage things better, but too much unused food gets thrown away or composted. I did cut some awfully icky parts off some cheese yesterday, though… the rest tasted just fine!

    • Yay, another cutting around the molding bits cheese eater! I am so relieved. 🙂 I have cardboard boxes and paper bags ready to bring into the store, but sometimes, I forget them and ask for (more) paper bags… They do rip after a while and end up in the recycling bag. Whenever we really live somewhere, I plan to invest in sturdy, reusable bags for shopping. In California, people have always been more in tune with nature and the environment, I feel. It is one of the reasons we would like to return, and pet sit in this progressive state next!

  2. Honestly, I’m utterly perplexed by people who just throw there trash randomly everywhere. Is it so hard to put it in its proper place? Having said that, littering and fly tipping used to be so much worse in the States, but it’s still pretty horrendous. One of my big vices is that I do waste food. I wish I didn’t, but there are times when I throw out stuff that could probably be eaten, but I can’t bear to eat it. I need to get better at this given how much resources are put into producing our food. So, good on you for eating that cheese, someone has to take one for the team 🙂

    • Thanks, Ellen. I’ll gladly sacrifice my sanity and reputation for questionable food. 🙂 Which is not to mean that I expect others to do the same. We each have our “tresholds”, with food and other things in life. What is “fly tipping”? I have never heard that word before… Aha, Google tells me it is “to dump waste illegally”. Thanks for increasing my vocabulary! When you are close to a grocery store and can shop more often, I think that helps with reducing food waste as well. I’m sure your chocolate never goes bad, right? 🙂

  3. I am totally with you! Things are improving here all the time. Supermarkets now have to charge for plastic bags (the money goes to charity) and more people take their own. Our council now collects food waste separately. In our household, we now have very little unrecyclable waste.

    What does annoy me is when my neighbours’ recycling bins are so full that they put stuff into mine – the wrong stuff! Unwashed bottles or cardboard boxes still in plastic wrapping. They are good neighbours and I don’t want to fall out – but I don’t want my bin to be rejected either. I have to sort it out before it’s collected. So you see, you are not the only person with a waste obsession.

    • I”m glad to hear that Anabel! Ideally, I would not like to do the recycling job of two households, though, and would be annoyed at the neighbors as well. How could you politely teach them recycling ethics. If only they were to do it right… I agree that things are definitely improving (hopefully, it is not too late) and educating people helps. Maybe TV ads should be more about that than consumerism, but who would make money of it???

  4. Thank you for this post! We also compost, recycle and often throw out half full bags of garbage because of the smell rather than the fullness of the bag. Luckily, we both enjoy bleu cheese, so cutting the mold off old cheese has never been a big deal. I buy vegetables from the Saturday farmers market and commit to eating everything I purchase before the next market. That policy has led to some interesting (and gigantic) salads and casseroles on Fridays.

    • You know, emptying the fridge of all the food in there before replacing it is one of the highlights in my life! I truly like to get rid of things. Anything. Especially food (in my belly, that is :-)). That’s a great rule, Gray, and it means that you eat loads of veggies. Can’t go wrong there! 🙂

  5. I am absolutely with you! Things are enhancing here constantly. Grocery stores now need to charge for plastic packs and more individuals take their own..I loathe inefficiency as well! We convey sacks to the supermarket, we compost, we reuse, we make an effort not to purchase things with a lot of bundling, and, positively we don’t squander water.

    • Those are some good house rules! You could even live full-time on a sailboat with that attitude. 🙂 And, really, I think it does make us feel better about ourselves and about taking care of the environment and making a difference, one household at a time. I do wish everybody was like you guys, but every good movement starts with a minority of people! Spread the word. 🙂

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