Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Sort of Dumb

We live in Placer County, California. Placer rhymes with gasser, unless you are also pronouncing gasser wrong. Placer County is named after a gold mining technique – placer mining. That’s where you use water to sift through sand, silt, and gravel in order to not find enough gold to pay for the boots you ruined while placer mining.

I’m not sure if the roots of the county name, steeped in the practice of separating things, is the reason or not, but we have never had recycling bins. All the houses in Placer County get one big 96-gallon rolling green bin for the yard waste, and one big 96-gallon rolling gray bin for everything else. (Unless you’re my neighbor two doors down who pays to have a second gray bin and both of them are always overflowing and I still can’t figure out how one family could possibly produce that much trash each and every week unless they are importing it from other houses in some sort of weird money-making scheme but how would that work?… but I digress…)

The Western Regional Sanitary Landfill and Materials Recovery Facility, aka The Dump, employs a bunch of people to stand on either side of a huge conveyor belt and manually sort, Placer-style, all of our trash. #TopTenJobsIDon’tWant

I still don’t know why they do it that way, but it might have something to do with those sorting trashcans at the airport and in some fast-food places. You know – the ones with multiple small holes at the top labeled like this:

Paper | Cans | Plastic | Landfill


Mixed Recycling | Landfill | Compost


Bottles/Cans | Paper | Trash

Have you ever, since those came into existence, fully understood how to categorize every single thing you’re throwing away? The waxy paper under my cheese fries, for instance. Is it considered paper? You sure as heck can’t write on it. And if so, should it go in the paper section even though it’s soaked in oil and has cheese stuck to it? If not, is that now compost, landfill, trash, or recycle? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I should probably lay off the cheese fries after looking at the paper.

And have you ever agreed with the categorization made by the person before you, whose paperboard drink holder is sticking out of the trash hole, or the paper hole, or the compost hole? No, you have not.

My guess is that Placer County decided if we can’t even use those right, how are we going to properly sort an entire week’s worth of household waste? I think they have a point.

Which is why I was a little shocked when I got the latest news from our school district. Seems that the California legislature passed a fun new bill requiring all schools to step up their recycling game, which leads me to believe that the California legislature does not understand that schools are full of kids. For whatever reason, the schools here in Placer County are going to break with Placer tradition and try something new.


Dear Rocklin Unified Students, Families and Staff,

Following the passage of California Senate Bill 1383, all school districts need to implement trash separation systems to recycle food waste. While Rocklin Unified has focused initial efforts within campus kitchens, the next round of implementation includes students separating organic/food waste into a green waste bin.

Elementary school students will participate in hands-on lessons to learn more about green waste recycling and then be asked to separate food scraps from non-food items when they finish eating snacks and lunch.  

Please contact your child’s school if you have any questions.


Rocklin Unified School District


Um, yes, I do have a few questions. My first one is, were you drunk or high when you wrote this?

You’re going to train the elementary school kids, but leave the middle- and high-schoolers to just figure it out? Have you met them? Although, the alternative idea of holding a “hands-on lesson” about food scraps with middle and high school kids is equally asinine. I can already see the airborne mozzarella sticks covered in marinara sauce.

And have you ever been to a school? The kids can’t get more than 60% of the trash all the way into the actual trash cans when there’s only one kind. 

I mean, best of luck with this plan, but I’m going to tell you right now, a lot of things are going to end up in those green waste bins, but fully separated organic/food waste is not one of them.

After the hands-on lessons, you can check the bin for Jimmy’s package of carrots, still in the package, Jimmy’s milk, still in the carton, and possibly Jimmy’s backpack, if he’s missing it.

And if he has any enemies, you may also want to check the bin for Jimmy himself.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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1 comment:

  1. Amen to that! These soft heads who make up rules and guidelines like this have never had to live with the consequences of their actions. It's everyone else who is failing.