by Andrew Mungo

About a block in either direction from the Screening Room there are sets of two collection barrels, one each for trash and recycle, one each outside the Richdale convenience store and the Library. In each case there are multiple plastic drinking cups in the trash barrels yet plenty of room in the recycle barrels.

We’ve all seen media about that remote tropical isle, a curvature of the earth away from any library or convenience store where the beach is covered in tons of plastic junk. We’ve all heard of the swirl of plastic garbage the size of Rhode Island spinning around out in the ocean.

I’ve located the source of those piles of trash: the barrels within a block of this theater. 

I have an imaginary science fiction story in my head: in the future there will be scavengers trolling the world looking for caches of plastic. The stuff is great but in the future it will become scarce so therefore valuable. It will be reminiscent of sailing days of yore when ships were sent out to collect bird guano, ie poop, to use as fertilizer. Great stuff, bird poop.

Back when I went to old Europa as an upscale twenty-something bum hanging around the people I was with would laugh when the English shoppes would serve up fish and chips in old newspapers. It was greasy fun but it was so old school. I remember one kid being terrible amused by a shopkeep demonstrating the correct way to fold the newspapers to best hold the lardballs of goop he was selling. It was as mysterious to me as Japanese origami. 

I haven’t been back there since but I am told they all use plastic now. 

Not so long ago Newburyport was rightly proud to be the first community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to ban plastic grocery bags. The industry balked but they got used to it.  Recently I reread the do’s and don’ts of the local recycling process. It included an admonition against including some kinds of plastic wrap and bags in one’s recycle. It said to bring the stuff back to the retailer.

I think that’s a great idea. Not that the retailers want the stuff but they would adjust. They would stop using it, pronto, and go back to wrapping your half pounds of roast beef and sliced cheese in paper. Probably not old newspapers but the answer to the trash barrels on either side of the theater full of plastic with recycle bins inches away is to simply ban everything.

Not that old newspapers aren’t good enough but people get their news on their wristwatches now.