Marin Sanitary Service Tour

Saturday I toured Marin Sanitary Services and hid behind my camera with tears. I'm blaming it on the acacia in bloom, but honestly, it was the tour leader.

The tour was probably standard with the huge exception that ours was led by the Chairman of the Board, Joe Garbarino. Joe is 77, retired and he wore white tennis shoes.

We started in the area where plastic, paper, cans and bottles are sorted. "This stuff gets in the ocean," Joe said pointing to plastic bags, "and oh the trouble it causes. If only you could see it." He gestured like he was tossing stale bread to the seagulls. "At least in the landfill," he added, "it stays there and doesn't get in the water."

We walked to the next warehouse with a pit the length of one side. "This is what goes to the landfill. It's what's left when everything recyclable comes out." There were a couple of couches, some mattresses.

Someone near me said, "You really can't reuse a mattress. Can you?" No one replied. We were scowling at the pit of future landfill.

Next door was the warehouse where cars and trucks drive in to unload. Undeterred, Joe stopped in the middle of the floor and told us about using oil based paints that are brought in. Cars and trucks drove around us. "I have it dumped in the bottom of the dumpsters. We just keep painting and repainting them." He waved at a wall of color patched dumpsters. "The dumpsters aren't going anywhere and it keeps it out of the landfill." Joe was my newest eco hero. I took a few pictures.

Half way through the tour we passed bails of old carpet padding. "A woman picks that up." Joe pointed. "I don't know what she does with it." He paused considering the possibilities. "I'll have to ask her."

At the furthest warehouse, this one open ended, Joe bent down and picked up a couple pieces of metal. "This one," he said, waving a license plate in the air. "It's worth .16 cents a pound. This one," he held up a piece of what may have been a bed frame, "it's worth .09 cents a pound." And then he tossed them into separate bins. If we hadn't been there he would have continued sorting. Instead we kept going.

"We smash cars here and over here we can shred a tree." Then, and this got me too, Joe pointed to what was left of an old oak tree. "This one came down this week in Glenwood." We all stopped and considered the sawed pieces of tree. I considered how Joe knew about the tree. And then I hid behind the camera until the tears passed.

At the furthest yard where old appliances are gathered for scrap metal, Joe pointed out a three story wall poured entirely from left over cement. And then he showed us a hill of compost made from food waste. He scooped up a double handful and encouraged us, "Smell it," he said smiling. "It smells good." He extended his arms and he was right; the compost smelled good.

And for some reason that still makes me cry.

I'll never think of garbage the same again.


Kelly said...

ahhh, you're so lovely! such a gentle soul.

Tracee said...

And that's the way it should be...

T_McLeod said...

I love the dirt in the hands photo. Awesome!

Kale for Sale said...

It was the guy Kelly. He was such a treasure. Melt the hardest heart.

Tracee - My trash sister!

T McLeod - There's nothing like two hands cupped with dirt. I wish I'd got a crisper shot but his enthusiasm is there. Thank you.

Lori said...

Sweet Post ... I've just been looking up info about Marin Sanitary Services' new pilot residential composting program and happily found your musings. I'm a fellow San Anselmo-ite blogger ... and fellow soil lover. Compost makes me happy.