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Wednesday, November 28,2001

Degraded for her biodegradables


I'm not sure when it happened, but I think this town has gone insane. I experienced the insanity this afternoon while raking leaves in my front yard. I was distantly envious of a neighbor who was getting new recycling carts from Western Disposal, even though we had been labeled a "cartless neighborhood" due to lack of space. I, naturally, wanted in on the action.

As a responsible citizen, I was eager to recycle my paperboard, cardboard, newspapers and phone books that would easily fit inside the shiny, new rolling bins. As he was explaining how he got them, he was glancing out of the corner of his eye at the piles of leaves I was spreading out in the alley (we live alongside a short, dead-end dirt road that only we and one other neighbor use).

"Are you dumping those there?"

"Yeah," I told him. "It only takes two or three days and the leaves are packed down and mushed up right into dirt."

This seemed the logical course of action to me. But he informed me-quite nastily, I might add-that it was illegal to "just dump" the leaves in the alley and that I was responsible for bagging and disposing of them properly. I didn't want them taking up space in some landfill, but he made the triumphant retort that what I was supposed to do was to haul them to the mulching yard "this or next Saturday" to have them recycled.

It seemed silly to me to waste the time, plastic bags, gas and resources needed to do all this when a ready-made mulching machine was present right in the alley behind my house. Moving two enormous piles of cottonwood leaves is quite a monumental task, especially for a woman five months pregnant. Hauling them into the alley was far enough for me. And whatever happened to chivalry and kindness for pregnant ladies, anyway?

The depth and breadth of Boulder's insanity had not yet made itself known, however. After my altercation with the goody-two-shoes neighbor, I went back to raking my leaves. Just then, a red SUV drove by and a high school kid stuck his head out of the window and proceeded to lecture me.

"Leaves make beneficial mulch for your lawn, and you should recycle them!" he shouted.

I think he must have seen the 20 or so huge, black plastic bags my neighbor had piled up for his weekend trip to the mulching yard and assumed that I was just throwing them out. After talking about the benefits of mulch, the teen continued preaching at me, and I suspect he was telling me about the mulching facility and "this or next Saturday," but I wasn't able to hear his words above the roar of the 12 mile per gallon guzzler he was riding in.

I'm certainly glad that the kids are being taught about recycling and are excited enough to shout about it out of car doors, but preaching about recycling in Boulder seems like a waste of breath. Most people already do what they can.

The deed is done; the job is finished. But now, instead of patting myself on the back, I'm paranoid that the environmental police are on my doorstep, about to knock down the door waving warrants and tickets and hauling my no-good, non-conformist butt off to jail for "leaf dumping."

However, aside from the silliness of getting excited over leaf laws, what concerns me most about this insanity is that right now our country is waging a war, and people are dying. A war of suspect efficacy and intention. How can anyone really care so much about the decomposition of my organic leaves when blood is being spilled and letters in the mail are killing people for doing their jobs? If there's anything to get upset or excited about right now, it has nothing to do with leaves.

Jessica Klauzer-Zimmerman resides in Boulder, where she cautiously rakes leaves while preparing to give birth.

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"Speaking Out" is an unsolicited opportunity for public comment. Views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of Boulder Weekly management or staff. Send submissions to: editorial@boulderweekly.com

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