Saturday 6 June 2020

'Becoming Zero Waste' by Ana Dukakis

For now I’m living at someone else’s. It’s potent summertime. It’s a house with a garden, big enough to justify composting.

I’d never done it before, but composting is pretty straightforward. You need small biodegradable bags and a small bin, then one bigger one to dump everything in. That’s it. Let time do its thing.

In the heat, potent enough to provoke window-thrashing wasps, to provoke dazed tempers that leave you evaporated, you can’t leave the bags too long. They must be transferred quickly to the big drum, where magic happens – breakdowns and transformations into something cool, dark, and rich.

Now when I’m peeling carrots, or cracking eggs, or cutting a lump of mould from a tomato, I feel a burst of joy. Knowing I don’t need to waste these things. No longer need to see them as waste, even if that is their name. They have purpose. I scoop everything I can find: plates sitting in the sink, mugs left overnight (you can compost tea bags too), and fuzzy dishes at the back of
the fridge. The little bin welcomes it all. I scrape things into its mouth with stained teaspoons, crusty wooden stirrers, anything I can get another use out of. After I’m done, I’ll take a moment to survey what has been deposited before (a shrivelling melon rind, a splatter of coffee grounds, some wet, wet spinach).

On a luxurious day, I’ll take my lunch into the garden and eat at the green plastic table. When I’m done, I’ll lie along the hot black recliner for twenty minutes. The compost bin is in view, a metre and a half away. It smells wavy.

I have this plan, someday soon, to get inside the drum, with its wavy, heady smells. I’ll fold into the dark, pull the lid over myself to shelter from the sun, and sink thigh-deep into the mulch, legs like roots passing through layers of transition until I hit the bottom of crumbled black gold. Soon, I say, but I always get up and go back inside, scrape down my plate before rinsing and go back to work. Not yet.

Yet each night, when I close my eyes and fold into the dark, pull the covers over myself and sink into the bed, I imagine my body laid out as browned banana peels, blobs of curdled yoghurt, handfuls of stale crumbs, cracked garlic skins and splintered broccoli stems. I dream of waking up as crumbled gold. I dream no drum is needed.

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